In the early 16th century, religious reformation swept through Europe. The schism between the Catholic Church and those protesting its overreach and corruption gave birth to Protestantism. Because of differences of opinion and interpretation of scripture, several Protestant sects emerged. One group was the Anabaptists, who believe that to be baptized, a person must first confess his/her faith in Christ. (For this reason, Anabaptists do not believe in christening infants.) From these Anabaptists came three “plain” communities: Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren with Amish being the most conservative.
Starting in the early 1700s, many Anabaptists immigrated to the Americas. In both my and my spouse’s family trees are individuals who practiced (or still practice) these Anabaptist faiths. It is because of my ancestral connection to these religions that I decided to venture beyond my historical fiction “comfort zone” and explore a new genre: contemporary Amish fiction.
I determined that the best way to begin was by sampling the works of several established authors, which is why I chose An Amish Homecoming: Four Stories.
The first novella, No Place Like Home, by Amy Clipston, introduces Eva Diemmer, whose husband has perished in a fire. For her young son’s sake, Eva reaches out to her parents to repair the rift her marriage and moving away has caused.
The second novella, When Love Returns, by Beth Wiseman, begins with single mother Sarah Zook trying to pick up the pieces of her life after Hurricane Harvey. With nothing left except a few meager belongings, Sarah and her child head home to her parents with whom she has not spoken in six years.
The third novella, The Courage to Love, by Shelley Shepard Gray, introduces Irene Keim, whose life has been one of heartache. Unloved as a child, Irene is taken in by a kindly couple who cherish her for whom she is. Unfortunately, their son is not nearly as welcoming.
The final novella, What Love Built, by Kathleen Fuller, tells the story of widower Atlee Shetler, who, after 12 years, still grieves for his wife, and spinster Carolyn Yoder, who, after 10 years away, has returned home to open a bakery. Both Atlee and Carolyn soon realize that in order to step into a bright and hopeful future, they must first deal with the pain of their pasts.
In each of these stories, I felt immersed in the characters’ lives, vicariously experiencing their internal conflicts. However, until these characters give and/or accept forgiveness, challenge assumptions, or open their hearts to others, they cannot move forward.
Although the stories contained in An Amish Homecoming are engaging and easy-to-read, I found it strange to see Pennsylvania Deutsche words interspersed throughout the text. Yes, the characters are mostly conversing with each other in their native language. But, since these novellas are written for a native English audience, it seemed silly to me to insert a German word here or there just for effect. Although I comprehend the German language, every time a danke, gut, nee, mei, etc. appeared in the dialogue, it just felt a bit off to me.
Other than that, I enjoyed reading these stories and would recommend contemporary Amish fiction to anyone who enjoys sweet romances or Christian-centric writing.