By Beth Shriver
The Spirit of the Amish, #1
The Spirit of the Amish series is about three young Amish women face overwhelming obstacles and must struggle to find out who they are and what they believe. Although each is dealing with her own unique situation, they all must discover how to follow their dreams and stay true to themselves, whether their journeys take them away from--or back to--their Amish communities.
In Rumspringa's Hope, Emma is torn between the affections of two men. Although promised to the widowed neighbor Zeb, Emma is considering leaving her Amish community to watch over her younger brother Mark when he leaves for Philadelphia to explore the outside world during his Rumspringa.
There, she reconnects with her former beau Caleb, who protects the Amish teens, introducing them to his life evangelizing and helping the homeless. Unbeknownst to Emma, Caleb is glad for the opportunity to spend time with her and hopes to win her back.
Struck by the power of evangelism and outreach, Emma begins to feel a draw to Caleb's way of life. When she doesn’t return home when she promised, Zeb goes to the city to find her, forcing Emma to choose in which of their two worlds she really belongs.
I've read a good bit of Amish fiction over the years - but if there's one thing I've learned thus far, it's that Amish fiction is not all the same. Some are comfortable, "feel good" reads, some are humorous, and others have a more serious tone with a focus on the struggles the Amish face. Beth Shriver's fiction tends to fall into this latter category and her books always give me cause for reflection. I found it hard to put down - not because of the fast action or suspense - but because of the depth of characterization and worldly struggles the Amish faced.
As the title suggests, Rumspringa's Hope focuses on that time when some Amish young people fulfill their desire to see what the world is like outside their protected conservative communities - to flirt with what the world has to offer. Beth treats their experience with realism and depth, giving the most insight I believe I've ever read in Amish fiction.
It was so easy to connect with Caleb and Emma, two Amish young people filled with a desire to evangelize. Caleb felt like an outcast in his community - "Ironic that he would feel the worst around people who were supposed to be the most accepting and Christlike." I loved the unlikely friendship that formed between Emma and Monique, as Emma came to realize that God might have had a different purpose in mind for her trip to Philly than what she originally believed.
I thought Beth did a great job showing the young peoples' desire for independence, sometimes openly rebelling in their efforts to break away, and contrasting that with the realities and struggles they faced as they try to figure out what they believe and where they belong. They were raised to be in, but not of, the world - yet the allure was sometimes too much. And isn't it the same way for us? Called to be a separate people, we are often drawn by the world's attraction until we look more and more like everyone around us.
I enjoy the difference Beth brings to her stories and look forward to continuing on in this series. Rumspringa's Hope is a story that fans of Amish fiction should enjoy.
Beth started writing after working as a social worker. She received a Bachelors Degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska. She writes in a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction.
Meet Beth online at bethshriverwriter.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Thank you to Beth Shriver for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.