Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community–friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart.
Since Mattie last saw Jacob, they’ve both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can’t help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?
Tender, poignant, and gentle, Mattie’s Pledge offers readers a glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s–and into the yearning heart of a character they’ll not soon forget.
“Did your daed build this springhouse?”
Matte shook her head. “Daed bought the house and farm from a family that was moving to Ohio. The springhouse is Mamm’s favorite thing about this farm. She isn’t happy about leaving it, but Daed said he could build one in Indiana.”
“Your daed likes to move around, doesn’t he? Didn’t you used to live in Chester County?”
“The folks did, but that was before they moved to Lancaster County. I was born a couple years after they moved to the farm along the Conestoga Creek.”
“And you moved here seven years ago.”
Mattie nodded and grinned at him. “And in a couple days we’ll be moving on, across those western mountains.” She stepped past Jacob to look out the open door toward the west, where light still lingered behind the hills in pink and gold clouds.
“I wouldn’t want to move that often. Once I get to Indiana and buy my land, I’ll never leave it. My children’s children will live on that land for years to come.”
She turned to him. “But what if you find something better? What if you want to see something new?”
He shook his head. “I’ll make my farm the best there is. I’ll work to make it a place to last. Why would I ever want to leave it?” Mattie looked out the door again and he touched her arm to bring her attention back to him. “When I have my farm, it will be my home. Mine and my family’s. Don’t you feel unsettled when you change your home so often?”
She shook her head. “Home is where you make it. So whether it’s here on this farm in Brothers Valley or somewhere like-” she waved her hand vaguely toward the west “-like Oregon, it is still home. I could never be content living in one place all my life, not when there are open prairies and vast mountains that I’ve never been to.”
“There will always be more. You can’t see everything in the world.” Jacob kept his voice low. Mattie spoke of a life with no stability, no community. A life he couldn’t imagine living. “What about your church? A husband someday? Children?”
She didn’t answer, but turned her gaze toward the west again.
He studied her profile. Her chin tilted up, a smile spreading as she drifted into her thoughts. Years ago, she had wormed her way into his life, and the time between hadn’t lessened that bond. Even when they were children, she had been more than his little sister’s playmate, more than one of the girls among many at Sunday meeting.
He closed his eyes, shutting out the sight of Mattie’s profile, so soft and vulnerable. The soft lap of that dark, brooding sea in his mind lessened as he leaned toward her. His Mattie.
Amish fiction isn’t a genre I read all that often, but I’ve enjoyed this series by Jan Drexler so far. I suspect the historical aspect has something to do with that, but I think it’s also because the ‘Amishness’ of the characters is woven seamlessly and unobtrusively into the story, rather than being the focus, as often seems to be the case with Amish fiction. Instead of being ‘Amish fiction’, it feels like these books are historical fiction with characters who happen to be Amish.
Does that make any sense?
Well, anyway, Mattie was a character I readily identified with, despite the fact she is a few (or so!) years younger than I am. She’s on the cusp of adulthood, and thinking about marriage; a prospect that becomes more real as she becomes reacquainted with Jacob Yoder on the journey west. But Jacob has made it clear that he will settle in Indiana permanently. He doesn’t share Mattie’s wanderlust, and his dream is to build a home – a place that will last – and share it with Mattie.
Sometimes Mattie longs to make that her dream, too. But she has an equally strong longing to explore the open prairies and vast mountains further west; to see the ocean. Hannah captures the essence of Mattie’s dilemma when she says, “Every decision one makes means denying something else.” But how do you know which decision is the right one? That’s the question Mattie grapples with as they travel west, a journey shadowed by Cole Bates, an Englisher who has his eye on their horseflesh – and Mattie.
Although Mattie’s story was the primary focus, there were some secondary storylines here too (including a secondary romance), and the beginnings of a storyline that will be continued in the next novel in the series, Naomi’s Hope. Those who have read the first novel in the series, Hannah’s Choice, will be pleased to ‘see’ some familiar faces return for the journey west. And on that note, I’ll warn you: If you plan on reading Hannah’s Choice, read it before Mattie’s Pledge, otherwise you will already know the outcome of some of its storylines. In all other ways, however, this novel would read quite well enough as a stand alone.
I’m tempted to say this is a gentle read, and yet it is not without tension or suspense. I found it an engaging read, and I’m looking forward to Naomi’s story later this year.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 20 September 2016
Author’s website: http://www.jandrexler.com/