Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Hope of Refuge...Review
Raised in foster care and now a widowed single parent, New Yorker Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and her daughter, Lori, away from the city toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers to mysteries from her past and a fresh start. She quickly discovers that Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, is no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God- "Be me to her"- despite how it threatens his way of life.
Ephraim’s sister Deborah is fearful of the strange Englischer woman causing turmoil for her family, but she keeps focused on the marriage and home she longs to begin with Mahlon Stoltzfus. Her dreams are threatened when Mahlon begins behaving oddly, withdrawing, and causing concern for Deborah and Mahlon’s mother, Ada. Will the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose-or push Mahlon away forever?
As Ephraim is torn between trying to do what he believes is right and the requirements of his community, he risks losing everything, including a developing friendship with the guarded single mother. And he knows that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake-secrets with the power to tear apart the home Cara is desperately trying to find.
While it took me a bit to like Cara, and I thought Ephraim a little too good to be true, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The premise is a bit different than other Amish fiction, but the story is good. We see a human side of the Amish that is most refreshing. Cara was a very prickly character, but given her life experiences you can understand it. She was raised in foster care and believes that she was abandoned by her father. Her foster care experience was about as stereotypically wrong as you could get. I found the stalker problem a bit farfetched and it wasn't resolved, which was disappointing. Still, this is an enthralling story and one that easily captures your attention.
I enjoy reading Amish novels, but I have very little real life understanding of the Amish faith and I can't tell you what is accurate or inaccurate in any novel I read. I do know that I cannot understand the concept of shunning. I well know the need for rules and consequences, but to shun someone for any kind of sin or mistake is simply beyond my comprehension and goes against everything in me that says "love thy neighbor" and "when you have done it unto the least of these...".
Also, in many Amish novels the bishops rarely show any compassion. I appreciated that Cindy Woodsmall portrays the bishops differently here. When the community realizes who Cara is, they rally around her as best they can, even while constrained by the tenets of their faith. The bishop apologizes for his harsh criticism and treatment of her, even as he explains the reasons and stays true to his faith, and as Cara has begun to let her heart soften she is able to forgive. It's a wonderful interaction.
The first in the Ada's House series, I am anxious for more.
You can learn more about Cindy Woodsmall here. You can purchase your own copy here.
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