All that to say, this encounter renewed my interest in Plain folk, and I was thrilled to receive Beverly Lewis' novel The River.
The novel takes place in 1977, and follows two sisters, formerly Amish but now living among the “Englishers”, named Tilly and Ruth. Following the drowning death of their youngest sibling Anna nine years prior, Tilly moved to Massachusetts and married, and now has twin 4-year old daughters. Ruth moved to Massachusetts several years later after a failed courtship and ensuing heartache.
The rest of Tilly and Ruth’s family still live in Lancaster, PA, and the sisters are invited to share in their parents’ anniversary celebration. Though as good as estranged from their family, they decide to make the trek out. Returning to Amish country brings back painful memories for Tilly, as she is reminded of little Anna’s drowning, while she was supposed to be keeping an eye on the girl. Tilly also has a strained relationship with her father, who has never seemed to approve of her. Ruth, likewise, is reminded of the heartache that caused her to leave the Plain life as well, as she runs into her former beau, Will.
Can the sisters make peace with their family, and their own past? Can their current lives ever be in harmony with their Amish upbringing?
Like most Beverly Lewis novels, this book gave a wonderful glimpse into Amish culture. I liked the storyline, although I wasn’t sure about the passage of time in several instances. Although a majority of the story only takes place over the better part of a week, date/time notes at the beginning of each chapter could have been useful. Lewis is the master of making your feel comfortable with the Plain lifestyle, and the main characters were likeable. Tilly was strong and had an obvious firstborn mentality, whereas Ruth acted young and naïve at times. I appreciated the words spoken in Pennsylvania Dutch were often translated right after use, so I didn’t have to lose my train of thought by looking through the book for a glossary, like I’ve seen in some Amish novels.
The love story with Ruth and Will did not seem to tie up all the loose ends, but I liked how Tilly’s character developed, and how she interacted with her family.
Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read.
*I was sent a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.