#Book Review #Hope deferred: an Amish Romance by Linda Byler

Will David and Anna be able to reconcile their faith struggles and their love for each other? Beloved Amish novelist Linda Byler once again writes a compelling and surprising love story, showing that even the Plain People struggle with complex feelings, questions, and relationships.

David Stolzfus and Anna Fisher have been best friends as long as they can remember. Sure, it was a bit unusual in the Amish community for a boy and a girl to be so close, but nobody questions it with David and Annaβ€”it has just always been that way. They live on neighboring farms in Lancaster County, they walk to school together (with all their siblings) every day, and when David learns to drive a pony, Anna is the first one to ride with him. Their lives are intertwined, the way the borders of their properties are joined by the Pequea Creek.

As they approach their teen years, David and Anna’s friendship turns quickly to deep love and attraction. But David is headstrong and full of an insatiable hunger for knowledge and new experiences. When Anna’s conservative parents require that he join the church before the two can begin dating, he rebels, eventually taking off to Australia for the adventure of a lifetime, leaving Anna to sort through her feelings alone.

When Anna receives a letter from Leon Beiler, a young man she can’t deny she has feelings for, everything changes again. How can she reconcile a lifetime of love for David with this new potential romance? And what will happen when David returns home?

****

My thoughts:

This was a very complex book. First of all, there are no good or bad characters in it, and everybody develops in their way, by making difficult decisions and questioning their rightness. Secondly, the time flow was very unusual. It is a real saga that spans several decades, although the time flow is very uneven with some events described in a lot of detail (David’s Australian adventure)and others given a cummulative summary. And thirdly, the reader is free to draw their own conclusions, based on their own convictions and life experience.

David Stolzfus is the youngest child in his numerous family. His parents are considered quite liberal in their community, perhaps more liberal than their neighbours, Fishers, woud like them to be. David has a quick temper which isn’t checked by his tired mother and his father who believes in letting children learn things by making their own mistakes. David is an unusually intelligent child who loves reading and is hungry for knowledge. He falls in love with sweet Anna Fisher, who appears to be his exact opposite. She is quiet and thoughtful. Most importantly, her family life and her upbringing is quite different. Anna’s parents are good Christians. They set firm, but fair rules, and follow modern child-rearing advice. Unfortunately for David, Anna’s parents disapprove of him and his family and do not believe he’d make a suitable life partner for their daughter. Anna is caught between David’s unhappiness and refusal to join the church just to placate Anna’s overbearing family, her own strong feelings for David, and her need and desire to be obedient to her parents. Dating should be the sweetest, most tender time of their lives, but for Anna and David it appears to be fraught with inner conflicts and struggle.

Do parents always know the best, even if they mean to guide their child towards the best life choices? Is it possible for two people coming from different backgounds be happy in love and marriage, or will their differences sooner or later cause bitter disappointment? Linda Byler explores this very relatable theme again and again throughout the story, although she doesn’t give you clear-cut, black-and-white answers readers tend to expect from the genre, but rather makes you think and empathize with the characters and their difficult life choices.

I don’t want to give away the story. The ending might surprise some readers, but I believe it shows the characters’ deep acceptance of God’s will in their life, and the strength of their faith. When I read in the afterword that Linda Byler is Amish herself, and is an active member of the church, I was not surprised.
There was just one thing that puzzled me and this was the way the author drew attention towards David’s mother’s weight issues. As the book progressed, her character became more complex, but at the beginning Rachel’s lack of energy and bigger size seemed to be a device to render her inability to set firmer boundaries with her children and provide more spiritual guidance for them.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher (GoodBooks) for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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7 Comments

    1. Thank you, Debjani! People have certain expectations for Amish fiction, but still there is a lot of variety and things aren’t always black and white. There is no divorce in the Amish church, so if you disagree with your husband or wife over a serious issue, it must be a source of serious inner conflict and psychological discomfort.
      I wonder if there is something wrong with my comment notifications. Please, accept my sincere apologies.

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