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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four 'bonnet' novels

Issue: "Syria's pain," Sept. 8, 2012

The Captive Heart

Cramer pushes the envelope of Amish fiction by setting his stories in Mexico, where an Amish community relocates in the 1920s. At the heart of this Amish romance/Western mash-up that fans of both will enjoy: The Bender family's struggle to live according to strict Amish convictions when the surrounding culture threatens everything they hold dear. Among the problems: Pancho Villa's revolutionaries intimidate the settlers, testing Caleb Bender's pacifist beliefs. Caleb's daughter Miriam tries to forget her attraction to hired hand Domingo, knowing if she acts on it she will lose her family. A diphtheria epidemic sweeps through the colony. Bandits kidnap Caleb's daughter Rachel.

Almost Amish

A daytime TV host decides to goose ratings by introducing a reality TV segment on her show. She sends a suburban family-dad stays home-to experience simple living near an Amish community in Tennessee. As hidden microphones and cameras capture family interactions, cooking disasters, and housework without modern conveniences, the family-including three teenage children-learns important lessons about busyness and our modern culture's definition of success. Among the characters: Perfectionist Susan hopes the exposure will lead to her own TV show, but she struggles to maintain her high standards. Her easy-going sister-in-law, Julie, is eager to escape the stresses of her suburban life.

The Fiddler

Violinist Amelia Devries and Michael Hostetler have something in common even though one is "English" and the other Amish. Both struggle to meet parental expectations, which clash with their own ambitions. Amelia's parents expect her to sacrifice everything for her concert career, forcing her to hide her forays into country fiddling. Michael's parents want him to join the Amish church and settle down in the community, but he wants an education. The two meet and feel an immediate friendship-but can the relationship develop into something more? Lewis fills the novel with one-dimensional characters-a wise woman, demanding fathers, sympathetic mothers, a heartless music agent, and a wayward teen.

The Keeper

The Lapp family struggles when Amos Lapp becomes too frail from heart disease to keep up the family farm. His eldest daughter Julia tries to hold things together, but she suffers disappointment when her beau postpones their wedding for a second time. She blames his pre-wedding jitters on the mysterious "bee man" who wanders from farm to farm, using his bees to pollinate orchards. A no-nonsense housekeeper arrives to establish order, helping the Lapps learn more about themselves and each other. This traditional romance focuses more on family and romantic misunderstandings than on clashes between Amish customs and those of the surrounding community.

Spotlight

With Upended: How Following Jesus Remakes Your Words and World (Passio, 2012), Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe have provided a study in discipleship that rejects abstractions and polemics. They emphasize Jesus' lessons in vivid, concrete, and provocative language, showing how when we take to heart His teachings "our small, delegated kingdom becomes an outpost of the kingdom of God and a foretaste of what is to be."

Upended brims with stories and anecdotes-from history, culture, and the authors' personal and professional lives-to drive home its message. We learn, for example, that British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson displayed the tools of torture used in the slave trade, such as leg shackles and branding irons, right alongside beautiful objects from Africa, such as fine cloth and jewelry. By underscoring the humanity of African slaves, Clarkson challenged prejudices and helped turn public opinion against the slave trade.

Upended's guide to discipleship softly draws us back to deep truths about attentive, authentic, and courageous life with Christ.

-Joseph Loconte is the author of The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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