Amish schoolteacher Leah Beiler is content nurturing her young "scholars" and helping out on her large family's Pennsylvania farm in Pleasant Valley. She has long since recovered from the defection of her former fiance Johnny Kile, who left the Amish community several years ago. But now Johnny has returned. Working at a local medical clinic on research into inherited diseases common among the Amish, he asks for Leah's help in circumventing his "shunned" status and reuniting him with his family, in particular with his twin, Rachel, who is also Leah's best friend. Johnny also encourages Leah to help out at the clinic, working as a liaison with the Amish community. Is Johnny secretly hoping to convince Leah to leave the community and join him in an "English" life together?
This book is one of few Amish books that I think really gets it. By it, I mean it allows the reader to enter the Amish world, yet does not try to push Amish beliefs on them, does not paint the Amish lifestyle as ideal or makes the world feel as if you're living in a bubble. I really enjoyed this book for the realistic way the Amish and the English worlds are portrayed.
This book talked a lot about subjects that I have never read in Amish fiction before. The one that stood out the most was the medical issues. This book mentioned a great deal about birth defects and other medical problems that stem from communities that continue to live in close proximity and only marry within that community. This is something I have never read in any other Amish book I have picked up and is a topic that I have always wondered about due to the circumstances of who someone can marry. Therefore kudos to Marta Perry for bringing this up. It may be a sore subject that no one wants to talk about but to deny that it exists because it makes the community look not so ideal is not helping anyone either. Honestly I feel like other authors don't bring it up because it breaks the bubble of the image that they are trying to portray of making Amish lifestyle appealing.
I thought I was going to have problems with Daniel due to comments he made early in the book but after finding out about his background, I understood him a lot better. His family's past was unique to the typical Amish storyline and even more so by the way he handled the situation. As for Johnny, I really liked the way his storyline played out. Everyone (for the most part) ends up where they want to be.
Honestly this is one of the most refreshing Amish novels I have ever read. I didn't feel as if this book was unrealistically portrayed and the outside world is seen in a positive light for once. If the rest of the series continues to be written in the same manner and tackles difficult but necessary subjects, it might possibly rank as one of my favorite Amish books. That being said, if you want a dose of reality with your Amish fiction, pick up this book.
Leah's Choice by Marta Perry is published by Berkley (2009)
This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program