Friday, February 11, 2011

The Bridge of Peace

I've always had a certain level of interest and intrigue with the Amish. I'm not sure the exact source, but I imagine it was a combination of many things. First, my love for Little House on the Prairie. I loved that show and the books. It seemed to me that life was simpler and families were closer and I was drawn to that. Then, when I was in high school, some of our friends moved to Indiana and they lived near a number of Amish communities. When we would visit, sometimes we would go into or through those communities. There just was something very interesting about the fact that given modern day inventions and conveniences, that they elected, or rather mandated, that they maintain the more simple lifestyle.

My interest didn't stop there, I actually did my term paper on the Amish, Mennonite and German Baptists as a junior in high school. I learned a lot about their lifestyle, their faith and why they didn't use many modern inventions and conveniences. One thing that I learned is that although many of those things they wouldn't use in their home, they would make an exception for their businesses and their safety. For instance, they don't have phones in their home, but they do have them in their businesses and they have community phones that can be used for emergencies. I also learned that the Amish are not all the same, there are different sects that broke off at various stages and allow more or less of modern conveniences in their life.

I recently read The Bridge of Peace, by Cindy Woodsmall. The author has a connection with the Amish, counting some members of the Old Order Amish amongst her friends. This relationship helps her write a believable story that stays true to the Amish community.

The Bridge of Peace is actually the second book in the Ada's House series. I didn't know that going in. Certainly, I felt no disadvantage in not having read the first book, but after reading this one, I am curious to go back and read the first one. The next installment is due out later this year.

The story line follows a handful of main characters, with the primary emphasis on Lena Kauffman, a young schoolteacher, who has a noticeable birthmark on her face. The other characters seem to move in and out of the story as necessary to progress Lena's story. While this was a fine way to tell Lena's story, it left me wanting to know more about some of the other characters - I didn't just want to guess what might be going on. I like how the author wove the back story into the story, providing snippets to help you understand the relationship and experiences that the characters had.

Grey, who has been a life-long friend of Lena, mostly because he was good friends with her older brother, was one of my favorite characters. He seems to be a very strong man that stands up for what he believes. As the story progresses, we learn that his relationship with his wife is troubled. We get to see the weaker side of the man and when tragedy befalls his family, we get to see his vulnerable side.

One of the other characters that I found to be interesting was Cara. She was an "Englischer", meaning that she had not been raised Amish. Having come from a troubled background, she had met and fell in love with an Amish man. During the story, she was living with some Amish women and learning about the faith. Her hope was to join the Amish community and marry Ephraim. It was through many of her experiences that the reader learned about some of the Amish ways and things that are not allowed.

The story explores the relationships amongst the many characters - as some of them fall in (and out) of love. One thing that I found unique about the book is that it isn't told from any one character's perspective, but rather is told by the narrator - this has the advantage of the narrator being able to share insights that only a narrator would know. The disadvantage is that you are left feeling like you don't really get to know one character as well as you might, were it told from their perspective.

I enjoyed the book. I once again found myself caught up in the story and when I went to bed the other night, I intended to read for 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, I noticed that it was almost midnight and I forced myself to put the book down - I still had 100 pages to go and my alarm was set for 5 am!! Compared to the thrillers I have been reading lately, this book was a nice change of pace. Like the Amish themselves, the book seemed to have a slower pace and shared the simple (or not so simple) story of love.

No compensation was received for this post. As a member of Blogging for Books, I had the opportunity to receive a free copy of this book for the purposes of sharing a review with my readers. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.