Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful–yet problems lurk beneath the placid façade. Hannah strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her father’s worries, her mother’s depression, and her sister’s rebellious ways. But her world threatens to unravel.
When two young men seek her hand in marriage–one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God’s call west–Hannah must make a choice. Will she stay true to the faith of her family or defy her father and abandon her community?
“There’s another young man going west.”
Johanna raised her eyebrows. “Who?”
“His name is Josef Bender, from Ephrata-” Hannah stopped. What would Johanna think of Josef? He had said he wanted to visit with Hannah, but would he change his mind once he met Johanna?
“And? Is he handsome? How old is he? Will he be settling on his own farm? What do you know about him?”
Johanna’s questions came faster than Hannah could think. “Um, I’m not sure. We didn’t talk very much.”
“But he talked to you? What did he say?”
Hannah looked down at her fingers, twisting themselves together on her lap. […]
“He wants to come see me.”
“You mean he wants to court you?” Johanna’s eyes grew wide. “How long have you known him?”
“We met this morning.”
Johanna fell over into her lap in a pretend faint. “And he’s interested in you already?”
“Get up.” Hannah pushed her friend back into her seat. “He’s very nice, and yes, he’s handsome.” If she wasn’t careful, she could dream about his blue eyes all day. Hannah pulled her mind back. “He’s a redemptioner, but nearly at the end of his term. He’ll be just starting out in Indiana.”
Johanna picked up her sewing again. “And you’ll be his wife, starting out with him.”
“I didn’t say I was marrying him.”
“You said . . .” Johanna stared at her, the sewing forgotten again. “You mean you’re thinking about not marrying him?”
Hannah ran her hand up and down the rope that suspended the swing from the porch ceiling. “I’m thinking about not going to Indiana.”
“But you can’t do that. You have to go.”
“Maybe I’ll be married by then and stay here.” She glanced at Johanna. Her friend’s eyes were filling with tears.
“But who would you marry?”
“Maybe Josef would agree to stay here if I asked him to. He could buy our farm, and then I wouldn’t have to go anywhere.”
“And if he didn’t? What if he insisted on going west after all?”
Hannah shrugged. “Then I’ll marry Adam.”
“Adam?” Johanna leaned closer, dropping her voice to a whisper. “Has he asked you to marry him?”
“Hannah smiled at her. “Several times.”
Johanna squealed, but Hannah shushed her. “I’ve always told him no. You know I can’t marry outside our faith.”
“And what does he say to that?”
“He says I should become Mennonite.”
“Would you do that? Would you leave our faith behind and join his?”
Hannah pushed at the porch floor with her foot, making the swing rock. “I might, if that was the only way I could stay here.” She looked at Johanna. “I can’t leave the Conestoga. It’s my home.”
Some books grab you from the minute you begin reading and don’t let you go until you’ve finished; not in the ‘I-can’t-put-it-down’ sense, but in the ‘I’m-still-thinking-about-it-even-though-I-have-put-it-down’ sense. This was one of those books. All through the story I could feel the tension in the choices before Hannah (and the other characters) and I honestly had no idea how things would resolve until the last moment. I wasn’t even sure which way I wanted it to resolve at times. What’s more, the writing flowed so naturally that I often forgot I was even reading, if that makes sense. I guess you could say I became fully immersed in the world of the story.
Hannah’s world centres around her family, her faith, and her home, and they are all beautifully and realistically portrayed. Each is also a cause for concern. Hannah’s mother still suffers frequent bouts of depression following the death of three of Hannah’s younger siblings nine years ago. As a result, Hannah shoulders much of the responsibility for keeping the household running and looking after her younger siblings. Her sister Liesbet is increasingly determined to escape the confines of the Amish way of life and has been secretly meeting an Englischer teamster whom she plans to marry, refusing to heed Hannah’s warnings. And Adam, the Mennonite boy who has been Hannah’s best friend from childhood, has begun to speak to her of marriage. But unless he becomes Amish, accepting his proposal would be turning her back on her faith and her family.
When Hannah’s father announces the family will be moving west to help establish a new Amish community, Hannah cannot bear the thought of leaving the home their ancestors built. If she accepts Adam’s proposal, it will allow her to stay in Conestoga Creek. But would that be worth abandoning her faith and being separated from her family? When she discovers that Adam is assisting escaped slaves via the Underground Railroad she becomes even more uncertain. The Good Book tells them to obey the civil authorities, and yet Adam says he is obeying God by helping his fellow man. When he needs Hannah’s help as a guide, she finds she cannot refuse and suddenly things aren’t so black and white anymore. Could this really be God’s will for Adam? And what would that mean for any future marriage to him?
Into this mix steps Josef Bender, a redemptioner nearing the end of his term who also plans to travel west and purchase land. He makes it clear from the outset that he is looking for a wife and wishes to court Hannah. Hannah barely knows him, yet she cannot deny the pleasure his company brings. What’s more, he is Amish. But when Hannah shares her desire to stay in Conestoga Creek she learns he can be stubborn too. He is adamant his future is in the west, and he wants Hannah there beside him. Over the winter, as the family prepares for their journey west, Hannah’s decision becomes even more difficult as those around her make choices that have far reaching repercussions.
I loved the way this novel presented such a wide array of characters and beliefs without pronouncing judgement on them. Each of the characters acted in accordance with their own convictions, and the consequences of their actions spoke for themselves. And through it all, we see the interplay between God’s law on one hand, and his mercy and compassion on the other. The characters were well drawn, the story was engaging, and the writing was seamless. I really could not ask for more and look forward to seeing where this series heads next.
Thank you to Revell Books for giving me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 12 January 2016 (Kindle) & 19 January 2016 (Paperback)
Publisher: Revell Books
Connect with Jan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanDrexlerAuthor/?fref=ts