Book Review: "The Blessed" by Ann Gabhart

Summary from It is 1844 and Lacey Bishop's life is a tangled mess. Estranged from her own family, at age 16 she went to work for a preacher and his wife. When his wife died, the preacher convinced Lacey that the only decent thing to do was to marry him. That way she could continue to act as mother to the little girl who was left on his doorstop. But Lacey never expected he would decide to take them all off to a Shaker village. There she's still married but living in a community that believes marriage is a sin. And to make matters worse, she finds herself drawn to Isaac Kingston, a man who came to the Shakers after his young bride died. But of course any notion of love between them is only a forbidden dream. How will Lacey ever find true happiness?

Books about the Shakers are a genre that I have difficulty reading about. I highly disagree with their theology. Everything that they believe is something that I find fault with. I feel that they took words from the Bible and changed them to make their religion work. I especially disagree with their views on marriage because the argument is not strong enough. I honestly feel that Mother Ann probably couldn't find a husband hence why she started the belief that men and women should stay separate. Also in all these books about the Amish, it frightens me as to how many men force their families to become Shakers and leave their wife but won't divorce her. To me that is highly selfish and their choice to remain celibate and away from women makes one suspicious.

And yet I keep reading these books for some reason. Well that reason is probably that Ann Gabhart's writing keeps drawing me to these stories. Her stories are well written even if I don't agree with the content. I don't feel as if Gabhart endorses the Shakers' beliefs nor is the reader supposed to walk away from the story wanting to switch over and become one. Unlike most Amish books, the Shakers are not romanticized or shown as the ideal way of life. In fact this book goes out of its way to show how wrong the Shaker thinking is and how their beliefs can cause harm. I feel like there's so much that they were missing out and instead of enjoying the benefits of their faith, instead they chose a different path.

This book is classified as a historical romance but to be honest that romance only takes place for the last few pages of the book. Therefore I feel like it's categorized incorrectly because if someone is looking for a book that involves a lot of romance, they aren't really going to find it in this story. The characters in this book do a lot of soul searching and discovering their inner strengths in order to make tough decisions. Not a lot of time is spent on figuring out one's soul mate. More emphasis is placed on historical information as well as pointing out what we can learn from the Shakers flawed theology. I find this type of argument in the book to be fascinating and therefore can justify why I continue to keep reading stories like it.

The Blessed by Ann Gabhart is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


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