Still Not Sold on Amish FictionI went through a phase of reading Amish romance by Beverley Lewis about ten years ago, but gave up after realising that they seemed to be rehashing variations of the same plot over and over (and the one which had a different plot ended up having the same “twist” as the last of Michael Phillips’s Stonewycke books, which meant I found it too predictable).
Since then I’ve read a few mysteries set in Amish country by authors such as Mindy Starns Clark and Vanetta Chapman, and I enjoyed those more because the focus of the plot was the mystery rather than romance. I’ve also read some other novels by authors who mostly write Amish fiction, such as Anna Schmidt, Beth Wiseman and Beth Vogt, and have found the quality variable. At their best, they are as good as any authors writing in the Christian market. At their worst, they have stupid cliché characters, predictable plots and uninspired writing.
I picked out A Faith of Her Own to review because I thought it was time I gave Amish fiction another chance, and because the plot sounded interesting. It appeared to have more of an emphasis on the faith elements than some Amish fiction I've read (this has been one thing which has always bugged me about Amish fiction: the notion that if an Amish teen chooses not to be baptised into the Amish church, he or she has rejected both God and family when actually all they’ve done is acknowledge there are other ways to serve God than through the Amish church).
Even Anna Mae made this point when considering whether she was going to join the church:
It’s not like I take my faith lightly. I’m not turning my back on God.”The blurb says:
Ever since Anna Mae’s childhood friend Jeremiah left their Amish community, she’s questioned her own place in the Amish world. The Amish life feels as if it’s closing in on her, and with her mother trying to set her up with potential suitors, Anna Mae feels trapped in a life she’s not sure she wants any more. But she’s never told anyone that she longs for a tiny taste of freedom—freedom that could be very costly.
When Jeremiah suddenly reappears in Middlefield to help his mentor, Yankee veterinarian Dr. Miller, new questions surface for Anna Mae,along with feelings she’d never fully acknowledged before.
As Anna Mae and Jeremiah rekindle their friendship, old feelings take on new meaning. Yet the question still lingers: What is God’s plan for her life? Should she stay, keeping loyal to her Amish family, or does God have a bigger plan—one that provides more freedom than she could imagine? The answers do not come easily, and the answer to God’s call may lie indifferent directions . . . for both of them.
Based on this I was expecting the main focus of the plot to be on Anna Mae and Jeremiah. It was and it wasn’t: there were also significant subplots about Jeremiah’s relationships with his father and brother, and his cousins and their horse farm. This was rather confusing at the beginning as the reader is introduced to a variety of characters with no understanding of how they are related to Anna Mae, to Jeremiah, or to the plot. Perhaps this would have been clearer if I’d read the earlier books in the series.
Anyway, once I worked out who was who, I enjoyed the book. The writing was solid but not outstanding (a bit too much backstory and telling at the beginning, and a lot of introspection throughout the story which slowed the pace). Despite this, I would have liked to have had more introspection from Anna Mae, as even at the end I didn’t feel I knew her as a character, or could understand why she’d made the decisions she had. In fact, I felt I knew Becka, Caleb and Amos better than either Anna Mae or Jeremiah.
My other problem was with the constant use of Deitsch (German). I don’t mind the occasional foreign word, especially when it’s a proper noun (Daed, for Dad) or a word that doesn’t have a straightforward English equivalent (like kapp, for the Amish headcovering).
But I found the constant use of simple Deitsch words like yes, no, and me to be intrusive because each time I got to one I had to stop reading to mentally translate the word, then reread the sentence to get the context right. It pulled me out of the story, and it didn’t feel natural (the people I know who speak two languages speak one or the other at any given time. They speak English to me, and English or their native language when talking amongst themselves. They don’t interject words from one language into another, and if they do use a word from their native language, it’s because they are asking for the English equivalent).
Overall I found A Faith of Her Own okay. I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more consistent with the blurb, either by focussing on Anna Mae and Jeremiah, or if the blurb had made clear that it was really the story of two related couples.
Will I read more Amish fiction from Kathleen Fuller? I don’t know. I liked the way A Faith of Her Own acknowledged that people have different Christian callings, and I especially liked the sensitive way the characters related to Amos (who has developmental difficulties), but overall? Better than most Amish fiction I've read, but ultimately forgettable. Quite simply, that isn't good enough.