Thursday, March 03, 2011

Book Review: "A Time to Love" by Barbara Cameron

Summary from BN.com: War correspondent Jennie King thinks she’s just a temporary guest in her grandmother’s Amish community while she recuperates from the devastating injuries sustained in a car bomb attack that changed her world. But when she meets Matthew Bontrager, the man she had a crush on as a teenager, she wonders if God has a new plan for her. Jennie has emotional and physical scars and though she feels she has come home to this man and this place, she's not sure she can bridge the difference between their worlds.

I'm a rather torn with this book. If you've read any of my previous reviews involving Amish books, you know how conflicted I am about them. I really like the ones that embrace the lifestyle without romanticizing it. I am interested in them and I would like to know more about their culture. However at the same time, I don't like books that are preaching at me for not being a part of their lifestyle. It's a fine line to walk on and I feel like some books cross the line too much for me.

What I really did enjoy about this book was Jennie's love and dedication to helping out children in war torn countries. She is extremely passionate about it and even in her injured state is constantly worrying about them. She wants to get the word out to everyone even to those out in the Amish community because this is a cause that is near and dear to her heart. Even after her final decision about what she is going to do with her life, she is still not going to give up on helping them. That is something I really liked about the book because just because her lifestyle is going to change, it does not mean she is going to give up her dedication to help. Her grandmother is also a delightful character. Even though her own son left the faith, she holds no grudge and is willing to help out Jennie in her time of need. I very much liked that Jennie is allowed to be English as much time as she needs to be due to her injuries.

While Jennie's story as a war correspondent is fascinating, the Amish aspect of this book left me a little disturbed. This book felt to me that the Amish community wants to stay completely separate and unknowing about the rest of the world. While I understand that they may not want to deal with modern conveniences and want to live a simple lifestyle, I do not find it encouraging that they are ignorant of other cultures or even other countries. The characters in this book seemed to know nothing about what was going on in the rest of the world and though they seemed a bit sad that there are children suffering, they don't really seem to care. It seems like it's the world's fault for not living a lifestyle like theirs as the reason for their suffering. Then there's the fact that it's mentioned that Amish children in the story are all blond haired and blue eyed. That's a little frightening that there's absolutely no diversity at all in the community. What bothers me so much is that many people feel that Amish lifestyle is the perfect utopia so characterizations like this are very scary.

I am also really not a fan of people becoming Amish. Jennie's decision does not happen because of anything to do with faith issues. It happens because she's in love. While love is important, in this type of case, it doesn't seem like it's enough to justify her decision. The Amish world is seen here as a perfect world. It just really scares me at how romanticized this lifestyle has become. Overall, Cameron's writing is engaging. As I said before, I did like Jennie's character for her dedication to her cause. Plus there's a lots of mention of food which I do always love reading about in Amish books. I just don't know if I can read any more stories like this because I feel like it's portraying the wrong type of image.

A Time to Love by Barbara Cameron is published by Abingdon Press (2010)

This ARC was provided by Christian Review of Books

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