Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Parting - Beverly Lewis

Nearly one hundred days have passed since the untimely death of Nellie Mae Fisher's beloved younger sister, Suzy, and Nellie dares again to dream of a future with handsome Caleb Yoder. But with rumors about Suzy still flying among the People, there are those who would keep the young courting couple apart...including Caleb's own father. 

Meanwhile, a growing number of Honeybrook's Amish farmers are demanding tractors and other forbidden modern conveniences. When a revival adds to the tensions, passions flare. With the Old Order community pushed to the breaking point, Nellie and Caleb find their families -and themselves- in the midst of what threatens to become an impossible divide.

So far I've read three of Beverly Lewis's novels and enjoyed all of them. This one was slightly different to the other two - The Shunning and The Covenant - in that it is set during the split in the Amish church in the 1960s. Because of this, the story had more emphasis on the Amish theology and how it differed from conventional Christian beliefs. I found this really fascinating as one of the things that has always bugged me about the Amish way of life is that they seem to focus more on the Amish culture - no electricity, specific clothing guidelines, not associating with non-Amish - than the Word of God, and a lot of their culture has no scriptural foundation. So it was interesting to read about families who discovered the truth about Salvation and how this was treated. To those that were interested in the theological side of this book, there's an excellent BBC documentary about a similar situation that happened a year or so ago:

Of course, I enjoyed reading about the typical aspects of Amish life: Nellie and Caleb's courtship, Nellie's bakery, and the rumours about Suzy's running-around years. To be totally honest, I didn't find these parts of the book to be as engaging as the sections about Nellie's father and friends discovering salvation through Christ. I liked Nellie as a character but Caleb seemed a bit two-dimensional, and this stopped me from really warming to their courtship and truly caring about the outcome. Likewise, as fascinating as it was to read about the family recovering from Suzy's death, the truth about what happened to her seemed to be tied up far too quickly and neatly in less than a chapter. 

I was intrigued by the story about Rosanna adopting her cousin's twins. It didn't totally fit into the main storyline, which made it a bit awkward, but it was interesting enough and I'm sure it's significance will become clear in the second book. 

One of my main gripes with Lewis is that nearly all of her books are in a series, and I've started 3 so far! When will it ever end? Although, considering how much I'm coming to like the Amish genre, I don't mind the steady stream of books. It'll keep me going until - if this ever happens - I get bored. 

Overall, I wasn't quite as interested in these characters as I was with some of the other Amish books I've read, but the subject matter - a split in the Amish church because of the issue of Salvation - was fascinating and well written. Looking forward to reading the next in the trilogy. 8/10

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