Elizabeth Duncan has nowhere to turn. In charge of her younger brother and sister after their parents die, her options are limited. When she hears that the Shaker community in the next county takes in orphans, she presents herself and her siblings at Harmony Hill. Despite the hard work and strange new beliefs around her, Elizabeth is relieved to have a roof overhead and food to eat. But when she feels a strong attachment to a handsome young Believer named Ethan, life gets complicated. Ethan has never looked on the opposite sex as anything but sisters, but he can't shake the new feelings that Elizabeth has awakened in him. Will Elizabeth be forced to leave the village to keep Ethan from stumbling? Or will Ethan's love for her change their lives forever? Following on the heels of the successful book The Outsider, The Believer is Ann H. Gabhart's newest exploration of love and devotion in this quiet Shaker community.
I will admit I was a bit wary when I picked up this book initially. I had several problems with the first book in the series. This was not because of the storyline or the style of writing. Instead it was due mainly to the belief of the Shakers themselves which I found to be contradicting with the Bible actually said. It felt to me that the core beliefs of the Shakers sounded like they were not really Christians. However in this book, there is more emphasis on the characters, storyline, and romance as opposed to the faith of the sect. Therefore I enjoyed this book very much. Ethan and Elizabeth were both characters I really enjoyed reading about and wish there was more of their background story. Both of them were struggling with the Shaker faith: Ethan wondering if he should leave the faith and Elizabeth if she can truly adapt to this new and strict lifestyle.
I still cannot understand the Shakers attitude towards young children. It baffles me as to how they expect a child who has been living in the "outside world" for years to suddenly adapt to their strict and somber way of life. Elizabeth's young sister was constantly referred to having a demon in her simply because of her adventurous spirit, which any child would have, and because of her curly hair! It also sadden me that they expected her to give up relationships with her sister and brother almost immediately. It was as if these people had forgotten what being a child was like. However it was still truly interesting to learn more about their lifestyle and it was reassuring to see that they accepted that it was not for everyone. This Shaker sect does not seem to be as harsh or judging as the sect in the previous book. While they still tried to maintain a sense of strict order, they were open to accepting the Duncans and did their best to protect them from harm.
The ending of the story is a bit predictable but I still enjoyed the story overall. The author takes a subject matter that is not normally known to most people. Many readers are not very familiar with the Shakers so this series is a great way to introduce their history. The stories so far have been historically researched and very well written. I'm interested in learning more about this subject and hope that there will be future books in the series.
One more note: I've seen this book classified as an Amish book purely because the girl on the cover looks like she's wearing a kapp. This is NOT an Amish book.
The Believer by Ann Gabhart is published by Revell (2009)