Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Choice

I don’t usually read inspirational fiction, but I was curious about the Amish life and community. So I requested a copy of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s novel The Choice, the story of a young woman’s coming of age in a community that’s very different from the rest of the world – and yet which has to coexist with it.

Carrie Weaver has a simple dream with potentially serious consequences. She wants to marry Solomon Riehl and run away with him as he pursues his dream of becoming a star baseball player, even though this will mean leaving their Amish community behind. Unfortunately – or fortunately, given that she has no experience of the outside world – her father dies. Left responsible for her younger brother, she chooses to take care of him rather than go with Solomon.

She also decides to marry a young man called Daniel, because he’s decent and responsible and she can’t take care of her brother on her own. Daniel understands that she’s not in love with him and gives her time, so their relationship grows steadily warmer.

Meanwhile, Solomon, while enjoying initial success as “The Riehl Deal”, soon discovers that his fame is ephemeral and there’s little else for him in the wide world – except that there may be no place for him in the Amish community either. Especially because Carrie doesn’t want him any longer.

I’m trying not to give away too many spoilers, because this book wasn’t entirely predictable – neither Daniel nor Solomon, for instance, is the hero. That’s someone else entirely. I also won’t go into details of the other deaths or near-death events. Potentially life-threatening medical conditions are that much more serious when there’s a lack of telephones or quick transportation, and there’s an arsonist at work in the community as well.

Still, the author paints a sweet if somewhat Thomas Kinkade-ish painting of what life can be like for the Amish. This book fits the impirational part of the genre: there’s a strong theme of forgiveness, and yet the religious factor was never overwhelming. Carrie’s faith has a quiet dignity which I liked.

There’s some contrast of the empty pizza boxes of the Outside World with the hotcakes-and-apple-butter of the Amish, but it goes the other way as well. Carrie’s sister marries an outsider and is promptly shunned. Her family can’t even say her name from then on. I didn’t buy the development, because the sister was portrayed as devoutly religious, but I did enjoy learning about the Amish customs in this regard.

On the other hand, things are wrapped up in too pretty a parcel at the end. As well as Carrie finally finding happiness with a man she loves, her sister falls in love, Solomon falls in love, and even Carrie’s cruel stepmother seems to have a chaste and low-key romance brewing. The arsonist is non-Amish, vulgar and oversexed, and is defeated handily.

So although this is the first book in the Lancaster County Secrets series, I’m not in a hurry to find the rest. It was a pleasant enough read, just not compelling.

The Choice was sent to me by Graf-Martin Communications and is available now at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds interesting, but not my cup of tea. I read christian novels and break out in hives. Okay, just get itchy.

But it sounds like a story that is not just a rehash of predictable tropes, which is a very good thing.

Marian Perera said...

Yes, I was wondering if the story would involve the Conversion of the Godless, which always turns me off. But I don't think the Amish work like that.

I like Christian novels which have something to offer other than the Christianity - Amish culture, as in the case of this book, or just a wrenching and unpredictable story, like Orson Scott Card's Saints.

Mary Witzl said...

This sounds good to me too. Anyone who can write a Christian novel that isn't over-the-top-in-your-face has my sincere admiration.

I like it that the heroes here aren't all Amish and that the ending wasn't pat or predictable.

Marian Perera said...

Mary - Yes, for someone who read several of the Left Behind novels, this was a welcome change. :)

Anonymous said...

"Bonnet romances" are quite trendy right now. Obviously not written by the Amish, although sometimes read by them.

They're No Bodice Rippers, but Amish Romances are Hot