I have to admit, I'm tired of Amish fiction. Quit reading it years ago. But I recently had the opportunity to read this one while taking care of Mom and was blessed with a pleasant surprise. This one was different.
When Judith's brother Samuel falls from the barn roof, she rushes to his side, only to find someone already there. That someone turns out to be Tobias, an angel, a messenger from God with a message for her. Problem is, when she shares that message with others, she becomes a sniff away from getting shunned. Only Andrew stands by her side, and his father is the Bishop. Feeling the heat of his father and spiritual leader's ardent disapproval, how long can Andrew continue to support Judith without being shunned himself?
Granted, on the surface, this doesn't sound like a "different" Amish novel. The risk of being shunned is common in many of the plot lines. And since I'm not a connoisseur of Amish fiction anymore, this one may be different only to me. But the draw came in the reason for the risk. Usually the young heroine gets herself in a mess somehow during rumspringe, or something during rumspringe comes back to haunt her. In this novel, the fact that Judith saw an angel--a scriptural being the Amish believe in--puts her at risk for the ultimate punishment in her community. Could Judith be shunned for something that doesn't violate the Amish faith?
Ruth Reid's characterization is stunning. You got each character's number from page one through their expertly illustrated behavior. The realistic personalities and obvious conflicts they presented hooked me immediately.
The tension remained at a high level throughout the book as Reid tossed more doubts, obstacles, and fears at our hero and heroine. Behind all the new problems they face, the question from Chapter One remains, "Will the angel's promise be fulfilled in the way we hope?"
This was a great read for anyone, particularly fans of Amish fiction--but for writers, Reid's characterization and tension building/maintaining are worth studying.