Turning Home is an introspective inspirational romance with the intriguing premise of a heroine who leaves behind the conveniences of the modern world when she falls in love with an Amish man. Unfortunately, the execution of this fascinating storyline leaves a lot to be desired.
Julia Durant ostensibly came to Tompkin’s Mill, MO to visit her brother Nick. In truth, she is looking to make changes to her life and moving to this small quaint town with its large Amish population, seems like an ideal place to start. That Nick is the local police chief is icing on the cake; you can’t get much safer than a small town that has your brother as the chief law enforcement officer, and Julia longs to feel safe after the incident hat derailed her life a decade ago and continues to haunt her today.
The most important piece of her relocation will be finding a job, and when she receives a tip that Bowman & Son’s Handcrafted Furniture is hiring she immediately applies. The Amish owned business is looking for someone to run their website, answer phones and work the store front, and Julia is perfect for the position. She is hired on the spot and quickly becomes a fixture at the establishment where Eli Bowman and his son Luke sell their beautiful one-of-a-kind creations.
Luke Bowman has only recently returned to the Amish after years of living as an Englischer. He is determined to devote himself entirely to this way of life and is frustrated to find himself attracted to Julia. Were he to marry – or even date – a non-Amish woman now that he has been baptized he would be excommunicated, lose his job and become estranged from his family. While he admires Julia’s sweetness and her beauty he knows that he can’t allow himself to fall for her. But his intellect and his heart are waging a war within him and he isn’t sure he has the strength of will to do what is right when what is wrong is so very tempting.
The first thirty percent or so of this narrative is a rather bland, tepid romance. There is no grand passion or sweet love story but the author does a decent job of showing us why the hero and heroine have practical reasons to become a couple. Luke is attracted to Julia because she loves the Amish way of life, is devoted to God, gets along well with his family, and most of all, she is the only one who seems to understand his full self – the part of him attracted to the conveniences and intellectual stimulus of modern life as well as the portion devoted to the Amish lifestyle. He can’t imagine finding a better partner to suit him but it is not the Amish way to invite people into their world. She must choose it completely of her own accord.
Julia is attracted to the Amish way of living because to her it represents real safety. The people are all gentle, friendly, and advocate a life of non-violence. She was raped in college and has felt frightened around men (excluding her brother and father) ever since, so finding herself at ease around the kindly, gentle Eli and his powerful but equally considerate son Luke means a great deal to her. Her job and love of quilting draw her into the community, where she makes Amish friends who share her love of that skill at the quilt shop, and where she finds people who love peace, modesty and quietude as much as she does. She starts learning the language to fit in better and attends an Amish church service, where she is impressed with their serene devotion to the Lord and with the fellowship – involving a big meal, lots of laughter and wholesome fun – which they all participate in afterwards.
This part of the story was fine. I wondered if the man-fearing Julia would eventually struggle in a patriarchal society, and I wished that the author had had Julia do a bit more of an investigation into everything she would have to sacrifice to live among the Amish, and had the story taken that direction it would have received a C. What I found a lot harder to accept is what happens about a third of the way into the book.
From this point on I will be discussing spoilers so if you have an interest in reading this novel, stop here.
A social worker shows up at the shop, child in tow, to ask Luke if he is Luke Bowman and if he knew a young woman named Beth Miller. Luke had indeed known Beth during his years in the Englischer world, but only casually. She was a homeless young woman whom he believed to be a drug addict and who pan handled near the bus stop he used on his way to college. She had also been former Amish, a bond they had shared, but after he graduated school and moved, they lost touch and he forgot about her.
Now the social worker tells him he’s listed as the father on the birth certificate for Beth’s three-year-old daughter, who is standing in his furniture shop saleroom. He knows it’s a physical impossibility – he was never intimate with Beth – but on learning that Beth is dead and her child has no other family to care for her, he states that he is indeed the dad and is happy to take custody of his daughter. And the girl is left with him, just like that.
In real life, no. I don’t have space to list all that would have to happen but it would be days, most probably weeks before the child would be left with him. Especially since she is non-verbal.
Naturally, what follows next could also only happen in a novel. The girl immediately falls in love with Julia and initially, will only stay with her. Julia is only too thrilled to take this little stranger to heart and the two bond. It is Julia, of course, who convinces Abby to start talking.
I’ve spoken before of my dislike of a child as an aphrodisiac trope. Given how many relationships break up because of the stress of having a family, this is a fantasy I just can’t enjoy. In this case, all the attendant weird little quirks make it especially unbelievable. The addition of a secret baby into the plot, one that belonged to neither the hero or heroine, having said toddler be dropped into the text in a thoroughly unrealistic manner and then having them form an immediate attachment to the love interest didn’t so much break my suspension of disbelief as much as shatter it completely. The scenario is just so poorly written, and it detracted from an already lackluster tale.
Turning Home is a gentle Inspirational with mild spiritual content which might have appealed to a wide audience but the poor execution of an intriguing premise makes it a difficult read. As a result, I can’t recommend this book.