When her younger brother falls off a barn while in her care, Judith can't help but feel guilty for not keeping a closer eye on him. So she's relieved when a mysterious, English stranger tells her not to worry and that her brother will walk again. Throughout the tiring journey her family take to keep the farm running while waiting for hospital updates on her brother, this stranger continually appears to encourage Judith's hope in God and her brother's recovery. But when she tells her friends and family about this man, whom she believes is an angel, she's surprised to be met with animosity. No one believes that this angel exists, instead thinking that she's created another one of her stories or is going mad over her grief and guilt. Even Levi, the man she hoped to marry, makes fun of her suggestion that she has been convening with angels. The only person to believe her is Andrew, the son of the bishop, who could destroy his relationship with his father if he was seen conversing with Judith about celestial beings. Accused of telling lies and fostering false hope in her younger brother by talking about healing, Judith is close to being shunned by her community. Can she ever convince anyone that there really is an angel watching over her?
When I heard that an Amish book about angels was being released, I was initially a bit sceptical. Even an avid fan of Amish fiction like myself is starting to wonder when the market will become fully saturated, and the synopsis of this book sparked the thought that perhaps publishers were pushing the boat a bit too far in an attempt to maintain the genre's popularity. Fortunately, I was entirely wrong! This was one of the best Amish novels I've read in a long time and I would not have known that this was Ruth Reid's debut novel. She brings something entirely new and refreshing to the full-to-bursting genre, yet also had something about her writing that reminded me of Beverly Lewis, the original Amish author.
The hostility that Judith received from her community for her belief in angels and miracles could have been set amongst any Christian group, making this a novel that transcends its genre. Those wary of Amish fiction may be persuaded to read this book in order to understand the problems that a church or community can face when its leaders deny principles that are scripturally sound. I'm sure that many readers of this book will have experienced or heard of situations where healing or miracles have been dismissed as non-existent, or only being present in Biblical times. It's hard to hang on to your faith when experiencing such adversity, especially when you know in your heart that what God and his Word say are true. Judith's difficulties in her Amish community represent this so perfectly. She hangs on to her belief that God will heal her brother and allow him to walk again, despite her family and friends trying to convince her that it is God's will for him to lose the use of his legs.
Not only do Judith's family turn against her, but also Levi, the man she had been planning to court when she came of age. While I immediately dismissed Levi as being unworthy of Judith's time, I can remember being a teenager and hanging all my hopes on a boy whose faults I just couldn't see. Any woman who remembers the pains of teenage heartbreak will sympathise with Judith's anguish when Levi makes fun of her belief in angels and continually embarrasses her in front of friends and family. Her younger sister makes matters worse by continually flirting with Levi, despite her parents' warnings that she's too young to court. It was strange to see such mean-spirited, selfish behaviour from an Amish teenager, but Ruth seems intent on breaking down any stereotypes about the Amish! Martha and Levi's behaviour eventually reaches a stage where Judith can take it no more and decides to wash her hands of Levi. His cousin, Andrew, has been becoming increasingly angered by Levi's mistreatment of Judith, yet it takes her a long time to trust him after the attitudes she has been met with by Levi and other members of the community. The relationship between Judith and Andrew is slow to develop, but his unconditional trust in her was heart-warming.
I would encourage all readers of Amish fiction, and those who have been tempted to read the genre but have been put off by the typical, romantic plots, to look out for Ruth Reid's Heaven on Earth series. If The Promise of an Angel is anything to judge by, it looks like she's going to become a favourite amongst Amish fans. 10/10