I’ve been remiss. I meant to read and review this wonderful novel long ago. I can only plead a towering “to read list” that is quite unmanageable. Finally, I’ve gotten to it and I’m so glad I read this one.
Elizabeth Lynn “Lizzie” Engel grew up in Kingdom, Kansas, an Old Order Mennonite community hidden away in a remote rural area. She became pregnant as a teen and her stern and unbending father, an elder in the church, planted a seed of shame in her. The youth who was the father of her baby was promptly whisked away by his parents and Lizzie didn’t know what had become of him. Not able to take any more condemnation, Lizzie ran away with her baby to Kansas City.
Fast forward, five years later. Lizzie is about to lose her job at a women’s shelter as she’s been accused of stealing money. There’s also someone stalking her and sending her threatening notes. Afraid her young daughter, Charity Lynn, will be taken from her if she’s arrested, Lizzie flees, quite reluctantly, back to her home town. When she gets there she finds her father is as unforgiving as he had always been. So, she takes a job as a waitress in the local diner where she and Charity are allowed to live in rooms above the eatery.
Charity asks why her father never came back to the village of Kingdom looking for her. So, once settled in the village, both mother and young daughter have to face the same issue. Both have the same question. Does my daddy love me?
I’m used to being faced with a body at the start of a murder mystery, but in this story the murder takes place well into the story. I didn’t find that to be a problem as it’s seamlessly woven into the plotline.
Lizzie’s character is crafted in such a way that I felt as if I actually new her. A number of secondary characters came vividly to life as well. The author describes Mennonite traditions, apparel, the scenery of rural Kansas, as well ferocious winter storms in such detail the reader can clearly picture them. Yet, meticulously depicting all of these elements doesn’t negatively impact the pace of the novel.
I hate to call this a bonnet book, as it doesn’t resemble in any way the usual Lancaster, PA type of romance story. There is tension between the religious Mennonite community and the outside world, with church elders doing what they can to keep outsiders out, or at least their influence. This is to be expected. There is also a mini-revolt within the church itself: legalism vs. grace. Several of the more strident members of the church come off as slightly deranged, yet they are depicted in such a way as to allow the reader to see their humanity, as well as some of their past hurts.
A sweet romance begins to bud. Noah, a young elder in the church who is part of the contingent who believes in God’s grace, has loved Lizzie since childhood and is finally not too shy to say so. Just as this is taking off, the author throws a curve ball into the mix. That curve ball itself turns out not to be what it at first seems to be This is a story that can be enjoyed by readers from 12 to 112.
Barnes & Noble/Nook: http://amzn.to/1j04ot0