A Road Unknown
By Barbara Cameron
Abingdon Press, 2014
Elizabeth is at a crossroad. She's been given the chance to experience life outside of her community, away from the responsibility to care for her eight younger siblings, but Elizabeth Bontrager can't decide which road to take. Goshen has its charms and pressures, but Paradise, Pennsylvania, sounds . . . well, like paradise. And it's also home to her Englisch friend, Paula. Decision made. Elizabeth is Paradise bound.
But will the small town live up to its name? When Elizabeth meets Paula's friend, Bruce, she quickly learns he wants more than a friendship. And the same might be true of Saul Miller, her new boss at the country story that sells Amish products to the Englisch community. As the two compete for her attention, Elizabeth is surprised to realize she misses her family and becomes even more uncertain about where she belongs. She has a choice to make: return home or embrace this new life and possibly a new love?
In Barbara Cameron's new series, Amish Roads, we meet three young women during a coming-of-age time in their lives called rumschpringe, a time which becomes one of resistance and contemplation of staying - or leaving - the Amish community.
Book one's title, A Road Unknown, is descriptive of what Elizabeth faces as she leaves her home and community to room with her Englisch friend, Paula. While I have no idea what the responsibility of taking care of several younger siblings would feel like, a lot of us can surely identify with Elizabeth's frustration, that feeling of wanting to be independent, understand what God is calling her to, and freely use the talents and abilities He has given her. Barbara knows how to tell a sweet, entertaining story and I've always enjoyed her easily-flowing writing style.
Saul is such a likeable character, a young man who enjoyed working in the Amish craft store his father started. Saul cared about his parents, and he cared about his community - always searching for special products or crafts and helping to find a market for them. I enjoyed seeing the growing attraction, friendship and trust between Saul and Elizabeth.
The friendship between Elizabeth and the Englisch Paula is another delightful theme. "Sometimes family was made of those you were connected to through birth and sometimes, Elizabeth thought, it was made of people like Paula." Having a day off was a rarity to Elizabeth, and she hardly knew what to do with herself. Although Paula's apartment survived, the results are hilarious! Barbara did a great job at blending the Amish and Englisch worlds, and I found the honesty of Elizabeth's character refreshing - her feelings of being tired and wanting to escape responsibility of helping with younger siblings.
I loved how the symbolism of a sparrow was woven throughout the story, reminding Elizabeth about God's provision and the comfort that gave her . . . for "If He cared about little creatures like a sparrow, she felt He'd provide for her, too. Parents did it for their children and He was, after all, her Father." I couldn't help but think of the words of the beautiful hymn, His eyes are on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
Just as Elizabeth faced the struggles of growing up, her parents needed to learn to let go and allow her to find her own way - and this is something that all parents eventually have to deal with.
I would describe A Road Unknown as a cozy, comfortable read - not a lot of action or adventure - but one that I enjoyed very much. The ending felt abrupt, but I hope to see more of Saul and Elizabeth in the next book, Crossroads, which comes out in August 2014. Recommended to fans of Amish fiction.
Barbara Cameron is a best-selling author who has a heart for writing about the spiritual values and simple joys of the Amish. She is the author of more than 38 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies, and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Barbara is a former newspaper reporter. Some of her non-fiction titles include the Everything Weddings on a Budget Book and Her Restless Heart: A Woman's Longing for Love and Acceptance. Cameron currently resides in Edgewater, Florida.
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Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.