by Olivia Newport
Published by Barbour Books, October 2012
I really did not know what to make of the first chapters of this book, and I didn't know if I was going to enjoy it enough to continue reading. After a slightly hectic and initially confusing (to me, at least!) beginning, the book began to gain strength after strength, and I found I was thoroughly enjoying it.
Past and present are intertwined in the book, as our heroine, Annalise (Annie) Friesen, meets the Amish Beiler family under under highly unusual circumstances; she is the wealthy and successful owner of a company writing and selling business computer software and is being pushed by her soon-to-be former boyfriend/ lawyer to sign documents about which she has serious reservations. When she becomes concerned about her own physical safety, she goes on the run and accidentally ends up at the Beiler family farm in the San Luis Valley. She discovers a way of life diametrically opposed to her own, and is forced to re-evaluate her own beliefs about how best to conduct her life.
We also follow the historical journey of the original Beyeler family from religious and social persecution in Europe, to America, more specifically Pennsylvania, where they are encouraged by William Penn to settle and become an established community. Things do not run smoothly for the Amish settlers, and with the marriage of Jacob to a non- Amish woman after his wife dies, leaving him with a young family to care for, the family gradually splits into Amish and non-Amish branches.
The developing love interest between Annie and Rufus Beiler is a tad predictable but nicely handled, and while it becomes ever clearer to Annie that she may have to take decisive legal action to protect her intellectual property and her business, Rufus is faced with having to deal with sabotage and treachery from a business rival in a way that is congruent with his Amish beliefs.
Their paths continue to cross intentionally and unintentionally, and as she finds out more information about his family's emigration to America, she investigates her own family history, intrigued as they shared the same family name a few generations back. Annie finds peace of mind in the small town setting rather than in the hustle and bustle of Colorado Springs; her decision to live more simply and make some radical changes in her life makes no sense to her family and colleagues, but it does to Rufus and Annie is the catalyst for healing some family breaches both from the past and in the present.
The book is cleverly constructed and although I could see where the plot was headed, I did enjoy the resolution at the end. The only quibble I have is that Annie is pretty much a very nominal Christian at the outset, and over a very short period of time seems to be surprisingly willing to adopt Plain ways without having the necessary underpinnings of faith behind them, though to be fair, her faith does grow stronger and her relationship with God deeper as the book progresses.
The book is based upon the true story of the author's emigrant ancestors, and knowing that, the sufferings of the Beyeler family are all the more poignant. This is the first in a series, with two more books being released in 2013. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for them.