Because I have reviewed Christian books which are extremely popular but extremely bad (This Present Darkness and the Left Behind series), it’s time to balance that out with Christian books which are both popular AND good.
I have just spent my summer reading all five books in the Abram’s Daughter series by Beverly Lewis:
For maybe 10 years, the first two books sat in my unread-book bin, waiting for their turn. I bought them to finish out my obligation to one of those Christian book-of-the-month clubs, because I cancelled a bunch of book clubs and magazines all at once to save money.
But I have had a large pile of to-read books for nearly 20 years, the individual books changing but the backlog seeming never to go down, despite constantly reading. These two books were set aside, along with many others.
Then, finally, I decided it was about time I read the books which keep getting set aside. Next came the first two books of this series.
To think I ignored them for so long! Before I even finished the first book, I decided my birthday money this year would pay for the last three in the series, because I just had to see this story to the end.
This fascinating, well-written series kept me engrossed all the way through: These Amish girls live quite the soap opera! Babies out of wedlock, love triangles, miscommunications, a non-Amish doctor whose decision has far-reaching consequences….
Meanwhile, the characters learn what their actions lead to, and how to repent and forgive.
You don’t know what will happen next; just as you think it’ll turn out one way, it veers another way. Some Amazon reviewers say it’s predictable, but I have no clue what they’re talking about, because I was surprised by each revealed secret (except for the very last one in the last book).
Though most of the passages are in third-person, when we read the perspective of an Amish character, the “voice” is colloquial, with words and phrases such as “wonderful-good (or gut),” “perty” or “beat the band.” Lewis grew up in Amish country with Amish ancestry, so she can bring in that local color.
One reviewer on the Amazon page for “Covenant” seems to think that the dialect and multiple points of view are “challenges” for the reader. Say what? Don’t insult the reader!
I understood the dialect easily, and it provides a rich “flavor” to the books. Is everyone supposed to talk like 21st-century non-Amish Americans to be understood?
I had no problem whatsoever with the multiple points of view. They are done properly: Each section has limited point-of-view, and you can easily tell when it changes. This is a perfectly acceptable means of writing a book.
Do note that the characters have old-fashioned values, including a patriarchal system which expects women to cook, clean, get married, and obey their husbands. But it is appropriate, because these are mostly Amish characters, and the time period is 1940s-1960s. So even the non-Amish characters hold to such values.
This also means that, at times, the Amish characters consider things moral that we would be horrified at, such as, telling your friend’s secret sin to the community.
But I tamped down my feminist side in deference to historical and cultural authenticity. Thousands of years of recorded history show us that it’s much harder to break out of the system you were raised in and believe differently, than it is to just believe this is the correct way. It’s better than when modern writers put modern, anachronistic attitudes onto characters in past eras.
This was also before the feminist revolution of the 60s and 70s. To these characters, the fashions of the 1940s and Big Band music were already “wild” and “sinful” enough. And even in the ’90s, many girls of my more liberated generation still saw getting married and having a family as necessary for happiness. I hear that this has changed, but we can’t expect these characters of the olden days to feel differently.
However, I couldn’t quite figure out why some of the Amish characters are so focused on “saving” other Amish characters. These are already Christian believers, so I’m not quite sure what they’re being saved from, or why we’re told they haven’t “found the Lord.” I do agree with other reviewers that sometimes the preaching gets a bit heavy-handed. This looks like one of those anachronistic attitudes I complain about in modern literature/movies/TV, only instead of modern attitudes, the anachronism is Protestant Evangelical doctrine.
I also had trouble with the treatment of the girl who gets pregnant by a deceitful, non-Amish boy–like she’s overly shamed for having sex outside of marriage–and by the author. Her sister seems overly hard on her for it. But while it’s one thing for the characters to behave self-righteously and think they’re doing right, following the beliefs of their era–the author also seems to agree that they’re acting properly: I got the impression that she has to be the “bad” girl in every way, not just making a mistake but also having an undesirable personality, up until she repents.
But altogether, I recommend this series. I have spent many delightful hours reading it this summer.