Taken for English
E.F. Schumacher said “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” That is precisely what the heroine of our book has done – traded a complex, successful life in the English world for the simpler life of the Amish. There is no doubt of her courage and conviction. But will her new life be blessed with love?
Her baptism into the Amish faith means that Annie Friesen is now a full member of the congregation, able to marry. Annie – and Rufus’s whole family – expects a proposal but as the days go by and she doesn’t receive one she has to begin to wonder if marriage is what Rufus wants.
Rufus Beiler knows Annie sacrificed a great deal financially in order to join his faith and become a part of his community. His dream is to marry her and provide her with a home of her own with a nice large garden and a work place for him. But his family is in financial trouble and the money Rufus planned to use for building his house must go to maintaining the family farm instead. Should he propose anyway, knowing all he will have to offer is a room in his parent’s home?
While Rufus tries to solve the problems surrounding their future Annie finds herself caught up in the problems of the present. Ruth, Rufus’s sister, has left the Amish way of life to pursue a career in nursing. She lives with Annie while finishing a local internship. She loves her new life but the young Amish man she left behind is still pursuing her. Ruth doesn’t want to encourage him because she knows being with her will mean he has to be shunned by the community and the family he cares for. But at the same time, she has loved him all her life and finds her heart yearning for what they’ve always had. Is there a way for them to be together? Or should she fully release the past and get involved with the Englisher who has shown interest instead? Annie tries to be a friend to Ruth as she resolves this issue but Annie is also deeply concerned with Leah Deitwaller, a young girl she met at her baptism. The Deitwaller family are new to the community and teenage Leah, who misses her Pennsylvania home, has run away. Her family is refusing to look for her but Annie is determined to help. As petty items around town go missing Annie realizes that the young woman is in more trouble than she thought and truly needs a guiding hand. Then the fires start and everyone in town begins to wonder who among them could be an arsonist.
As always Ms. Newport does an excellent job of showing us the Amish way of life without disparaging our own. I really appreciate the way she showcases how the two worlds interact and how impossible it is for one not to be influenced by the other. The Amish commitment to simplicity and peace is one admired by many of the Englishers they interact with while the Amish struggle to maintain their way of life in a world increasingly encroaching on their doorsteps. The balance that has to be found by everyone makes for interesting reading. I especially appreciated the look into the finances of Annie and Rufus. The Amish attitudes toward family and community kept them from easy solutions to money troubles and it was intriguing to watch them grapple with these issues.
I also liked the way their continuing romance was handled. In a male dominated society like the Amish it would be easy to imagine feisty, problem solving Annie running into real difficulties. But the book showcased that while the men might be head of the household they truly valued their partners and the women had as much influence in the decision making as they did. I especially appreciated how Rufus loved the unique blend of fire and drive that is Annie and how he wanted her to stay herself even as she blended into his community. The two of them suite each other nicely.
The mystery here is well handled too. The question of who the firebug was and how that would affect the individuals in the tale added a delicious little thrill to our story without ever taking over the romance.
There’s always a blast from the past in the novels and in this third book in the series the historic portion dealing with Beiler ancestors flowed much better into the plot than in past books. When Joseph Beiler is sent west to scout land for a new Amish community he finds himself falling in love with a beautiful feisty Englisher. This story echoed that of Annie and Rufus and made a nice compliment to their tale.
I had only one quibble with the tale and that was the character of Leah. She concerned me and I felt she needed much more than just the band aid Annie was able to apply to her problems. The young woman struck me as being incapable of making solid judgments as well as amoral in many ways and I couldn’t help thinking she needed far more serious interventions. This is a quibble though as she is a minor character in an otherwise stellar story.
In my last review of this series I mentioned that I haven’t read many books about the Amish but of those I had perused Ms. Newport’s stories seemed the most grounded. I also mentioned how much I appreciated that she creates very human characters and places them in realistic situations, showing us that people are indeed people wherever you go. Those things are still true here. I liked this story even more than the second and can heartily recommend it, though I encourage you to start with Accidentally Amish so you can experience the full story.