Years of secrecy bind the tiny community of Gobbler's Knob together more than the present inhabitants know, and the Plain folk who farm the land rarely interact with the fancy locals. So when Sadie is beguiled by a dark-haired English boy, it is Sadie's younger sister, Leah, who suffers from her sister's shameful loss of innocence. And what of Leah's sweetheart, Jonas Mast, sent to Ohio under the Bishop's command? Drawn into an incomprehensible pact with her older sister, Leah finds her dreams spinning out of control, even as she clings desperately to the promises of God. The Covenant begins a powerful Lancaster portrait of the power of family and the miracle of hope.
I loved this book! I've been interested in the Amish and their culture since I read Jodi Picoult's Plain Truth, and read Beverly Lewis' debut novel The Shunning earlier this year. However, I felt a bit let down by Lewis' first novel - although it was compelling it was rather predictable and the character's didn't completely come to life for me. The Covenant, however, was very different and showed a vast improvement in Lewis' writing.
The story centres around an Amish family with four daughters. The youngest, twins, don't feature a lot in the story although I'm sure their own stories will become more important later in the series - Mary Ruth wants to be a schoolteacher although this is not allowed in her community, and Hannah wants to be able to express her creativity and individuality and seems quite shy. The older sisters, Sadie and Leah are very different. Leah helps her father on the farm and is quite the tomboy until she reaches her courting years and wants to become more womanly in order to please her husband - who she hopes will be her second cousin, Jonas, and not the boy next door whose farmland her father covets. However, her older sister is a constant worry to her. Sadie constantly sneaks out to meet an English boy who will ultimately break her heart. Their parents and aunt also feature in the story. Her mother suddenly becomes pregnant again and their father interferes with Leah's courtship with Jonas. Their maiden aunt, Lizzie, apparently has a secret surrounding her teenage years, which I hope will be revealed in the next book!
The characters were very real and sympathetic. Although it takes a while to get into the book and warm to all the characters, I soon found myself hoping that Leah and Jonas would be allowed to continue their courtship and sympathising with Sadie after her beau leaves her. Normally I don't like silly, niave teenage girls but I could really understand how Sadie could allow herself to be used by an English boy. The characters in this book were much easier to like than those in Lewis' first novel and I definitely want to continue reading the series. I also felt that I learned more about the Amish and could understand some of their customs - even if some of their beliefs did not seem to be in line with scripture.
I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book and would recommend this for people wanting to learn more about the Amish and looking for a simple but exciting story full of secrets. 9/10