Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: "Plain Paradise" by Beth Wiseman

Josephine Dronberger was a scared teenager when she left her baby in the care of an Old Order Amish couple. But seventeen years have passed and Josie longs to reconnect with her daughter.Linda--as the couple named the child--is promised to Stephen Ebersol, the bishop's grandson. They plan to marry in the fall. When her birth mother comes to Paradise, Linda is drawn to a world she's never known. Will the direction she's been heading since birth be suddenly derailed, and who will stand by her convictions--mother or daughter?

Adoption stories tend to be very predictable in Christian fiction and they seem to be prevalent in Amish fiction. Usually what happens is a kid who's birth parents were not Amish, grows up in an Amish household, meets birth parents who are totally the opposite of what they grew up with and then get tempted to leave the Amish world. I could usually tell you the ending of the book by the end of the first chapter. Luckily, this book is not that predictable and doesn't fall into the cliche of most adoption stories and most Amish stories for that matter. That has been the case with the books in Beth Wiseman's series. They are Amish but enjoyable to read.

There are three main characters in this story who are all closely knit together. Linda is the daughter that binds Josie and Mary Ellen together from two different worlds. I liked Linda's character very much. Throughout the book she shows that she is still faithful to her Amish family and roots but she's willing to see what the outside world is like. She's down to earth and respectful yet is giddy to try out things like taking a bath in a jacuzzi. Josie is her birth mother who is coming to terms with what she did 17 years ago as well as trying to hide a secret of her own. I really appreciated that she did NOT want to take Linda away from the home she grew up in and to leave her faith. Mary Ellen, understandably, is very wary of Linda meeting Josie and is scared that Linda will leave her. I was glad to see both her and Josie grow closer and change character throughout the book.

There's more to the story than just Linda's adoption. Also at hand is her relationship with with her boyfriend who, while a bit wary of her going into the outside world, still has faith that she will remain true to her roots. I was pleased that there was no condemnation or backlash for Linda's decisions. I was a bit surprised at the swimming scene. It seemed very risque to me compared to other books I've read involving the Amish. If they weren't Amish, I wouldn't have batted an eye but seeing how strict they are about other things it's rather surprising.

The only bit I didn't like was at the very end involving Lillian and Samuel. I haven't been a fan of Samuel throughout the series so I wasn't too surprised at his brash decision without explanation. Unfortunately we have to wait until the new series that comes out in the summer to find out what happens to them. Overall, I have really enjoyed this series. This book was probably my favorite out of all four. It embraces both the Amish culture and the outside world and allows them to co-mingle without anyone switching sides or disagreements and without any preachiness or hidden agendas. Beth Wiseman has written a series about the Amish that I have grown to love and do find comfort in reading. I'll be looking forward to the new series.

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman is published by Thomas Nelson (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

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