i haven't been a big fan of the Amish craze. I was quite surprised, therefore, to find myself intrigued by this book. Intrigued enough to pick it for review. I was even more surprised by just how much I liked it.
Annie Friesen finds her life crumbling around her. Her business partner is conspiring with the company lawyer to cheat her out of a multi-million dollar software program she designed. That would have been bad enough, but the lawyer just happens to be the man Annie is dating. On the fateful evening that Annie is meant to be tricked into signing paperwork giving them legal ownership of her design she attempts to disappear. When she realizes she is being followed by her now ex she finds herself hiding in the back of a truck and taking an unexpected trip out of town.
Rufus Beiler is surprised to find a young English woman hiding in his barn. He reluctantly allows her to spend the night there but is happy to be rid of her come morning. After getting her to town, he is confident their paths have crossed for the last time. Yet not only does Annie remain in town, he finds himself bringing her home when she is injured. As his Mam and sisters care for her, Rufus finds himself growing slowly more enamored. Yet he knows nothing can ever come of his infatuation.
Annie finds herself drawn to Rufus and his lifestyle. But she refuses to back down from the legal battle she is in with her partner. It frustrates her that Rufus not only can't understand this but is actually a complete pacifist when it comes to a similar problem in his own life. It seems a local contractor is determined to see Rufus fail at his carpentry business and in order to move things in that direction has been sabotaging Rufus' projects. Rufus will neither confront him nor go to the police to resolve the issue. Their different approaches to similar battles creates an even greater rift between them. As Rufus says, one can never be accidentally Amish. But why would Annie choose a lifestyle that involves sacrificing her career and many of the things she holds dear?
The author does an excellent job of showing us the Amish way of life but more importantly, she covers why they believe what they believe. She deftly handles the issues of God's will and just how central that concept is to them. She also covers the important issue of submission and how that plays into their decision making. The community felt a lot less inflexible and judgmental thanks to the author's compassionate and comprehensive look at their value system. It also explained the confusing factor of Ordnung and interpretation, which helped me understand why some Amish have refrigerators while others shun so much as a cooler.
Wisely, the author does not make the faith or community the story but puts Annie and Rufus front and center. Both of them are facing adversaries who are forcing them to reexamine their lives. Annie finds herself wondering what she really has beyond wealth and the ability to generate yet more wealth. When she looks at the path she took to success she sees a road strewn with lost relationships. She had poured herself into her partnership and her repayment for that is the implosion of that relationship as well as the possible loss of her company. When she looks at Rufus she sees a man surrounded by people who love him. From his younger brother Jacob to the people of his extended community, he (not his job) is what is important to those around him. She envies that.
Rufus had resigned himself to living life alone. For many years beyond what was typical he had been a clean shaven, single Amish man. Annie is in many ways an unwelcome intrusion. His feelings for her conflict with his confidence in his faith and way of life. Rufus is not an ingenue, he is very familiar with the English world; he works in it on a daily basis and is familiar (and comfortable) with things like cell phones and computers. However, he has been baptized in the church and holds firm to that decision. Where does that leave him in terms of his growing feelings for this strong young woman?
It is Annie who pursues the relationship more than Rufus. She races over whenever invited to the Beiler farm. She gets involved with Rufus' estranged sister Ruth. She makes her interest clear. She is also respectful, though. She treads carefully and takes correction when people inform her that what she is doing is against Ordnung. Annie works very hard to fit in the world Rufus comes from. She also works very hard to show him there are other ways.
It helps that while Annie is not a church going Christian, she once was - and is looking to embrace the spiritual side of life once more. Rufus' religion is not just a way of life but an actual belief system that he is involved in whole heartedly. For Annie to change to their lifestyle but not his way of believing would never work. He lives as he does because he believes as he does. Whatever world they wound up in together would very definitely need to be centered around God.
The author does not take sides, never displaying one way as better than the other. Interwoven into the plot is the story of the first Beiler who moved to the new world. He, too, falls in love with an outsider and has to choose the path he will take. I liked the contrast between the two men's lives and decisions.
I really liked how typical of their communities these two were. Annie has a good relationship with her family but it is the average American one - with phone calls and the occasional visit. Given how much she worked, that made perfect sense. She has money but lives in a condo. She doesn't cook or sew or do any of the things Amish women do. She works. This fits her feisty personality and single mindedness. When Annie decides something needs to be done, it gets done. She also has a kind and generous heart and open, inquisitive mind. These factors keep her flexible and help her fit in among the Amish.
Rufus is a man of his faith. He is close to his family, has some friends within the community but he too is a worker. He spends a lot of time building his business and dealing with the special Amish issues that make his construction work just a little harder than normal. I think part of what draws them to each other is that while they have very different approaches to life they are both dedicated to doing. Rufus approaches his actions with a peace and faith that doesn't come naturally to Annie, which makes him a nice contrast to her. You get the feeling they could move mountains together.
I loved the seriousness with which the two approach what they are doing. They are well aware that a casual affair is out of the question, even a light flirtation would be unacceptable to those around them. Their care is shown in how careful they are of the others feelings. I also appreciated that the two families didn't fall in love with each other on sight. Each family knows that if something happens one of them will be estranged from their child. Neither is happy with that situation.
The book has exactly the kind of ending that the story led up to, which made everything that much more perfect. If you have been looking at the Amish love stories in all the stores and wondering where to begin, let me suggest this one. It is an excellent look into that very special world.
-- Maggie Boyd
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