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Product Details

  • Series: The Daughters of Caleb Bender (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764208381
  • ASIN: B0057DBH0W
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,470 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,294,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Cramer follows his acclaimed novel Levi’s Will (2005) with another inspiring and honest look at the Amish community in the opening volume in the Daughters of Caleb Bender trilogy. In 1920s Ohio, Amish fathers are taken to court and imprisoned when they refuse to allow their children to attend public school. Matters escalate when the Amish children are removed from their parents’ homes, stripped of their plain appearance, and forced to live in a children’s home while they attend public school. This incident inspires Caleb Bender to move his entire family to Mexico. Faced with rebuilding a homestead while battling bandits, Cramer’s characters dig deep to find the forgiveness and the strength it takes to truly love one’s enemies. Cramer’s ability to develop characters with genuine struggles sets this Amish novel apart from the rest, especially because it’s based on Cramer’s great-grandfather’s experiences as an elder statesman of the colony Paradise Valley, Mexico. Fans of historical fiction will find enough here to spur further research, and for followers of Amish fiction, this is a must-read. --Elizabeth Ponder

About the Author

Dale Cramer, bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novel Levi's Will, was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman and a sharecropper's daughter. True to his Amish ancestry, he skipped college and became an electrician, yet the thought was never far from his mind that someday he would like to write. Dale lives in McDonough, Georgia, with his family.

More About the Author

DALE CRAMER was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman turned soldier and a south Georgia sharecropper's daughter. His formative years were divided between far-flung military bases, yet he always maintained his mother's sense of place, remembering the knee-deep snows of Maryland, chasing horned toads in El Paso, or a sun-rippled macadam road at his grandparents' Georgia house. True to his Amish roots Dale skipped college and went to work with his hands, earning a living as an electrician, all the while reading widely and voraciously. The thought was never far from his mind that someday he would like to write books.

In 1975 he married his childhood friend Pam, and eventually they settled in the country south of Atlanta. They have two sons,Ty and Dusty. After keeping the boys in daycare for a year, Pam and Dale decided to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to provide a full time homelife. The decision came with unexpected results when Dale became a stay-at-home dad. He took on small construction projects in the evenings, both for the sake of his sanity and to help make ends meet. One of these jobs led to his first published writing, an article in Industry Week.

Having gained a taste for writing, he decided to pursue the avocation, studying technique, reading books, and writing during his sons' naps. Over the next two years he published short stories in several literary magazines, and in 1997 Dale began work on his first novel. Sutter's Cross was eventually published to great acclaim in 2003.

His second novel, Bad Ground (2004), owes a great deal to the author's own experiences as a construction electrician. The industrial setting is based on a real water treatment plant on the south side of Atlanta. One of the main characters, badly burned in an explosion, gains a unique measure of authenticity from the author's own experience. Publishers Weekly selected Bad Ground as one of the "Best Books of 2004", as did Library Journal and Booklist. The novel also won a Christy Award from the Christian Booksellers Association.

Dale's third novel, Levi's Will, follows the life of runaway Amishman Will Mullet, who must reconcile himself to his roots before he can find true redemption. Loosely based on the life of Dale's father, Levi's Will has also found critical acclaim and netted Dale a second Christy Award.

Summer of Light, Dale's fourth novel, released in 2007, is a much lighter read, a humorous and sometimes poignant romp through the daily grind of an ironworker who reluctantly becomes a stay at home dad to three free-spirited kids, a menagerie of animals and a diabolically intelligent dog.

Customer Reviews

The book kept my interest from the beginning to the end.
Sandra Scott
This book is a great story of Amish families and their faith and way of life.
Ma Steb
The story is well written and each character is developed perfectly.
Linda Bordelon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Camille Eide on December 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
While I am not Amish fiction's #1 fan, I have read a few Amish titles which I've liked, and most particularly, Levi's Will by Dale Cramer. I've waited a long time to get my hands on a new book by Cramer, and I was not disappointed. The saga of the Daughters of Caleb Bender begins with Paradise Valley, a fascinating introduction to the Bender family in the early 1900s. Knowing that Paradise Valley is based on actual events with added details from the author's own family history made this story especially interesting to me. This book is a heart-tugging look at the life of one Amish family, their faith and unwavering devotion to family, hard work and God. I was drawn into this story and left wanting more.

Caleb Bender is a man of faith, steadfast in his beliefs until the law forces him to make a choice that means uprooting his family and beginning again in a strange new land. Though he is undaunted by a world that challenges his beliefs, he finds himself questioning those beliefs when the lives of his loved ones are on the line and he is forced to choose between love and unwavering obedience.

Caleb's daughters each possess strengths, hopes, and fears; all of which are realized as they face many dangers and possibilities that come with starting over in a new place far from familiar friends. Cramer weaves the sisters' stories together in a way that tugs at your heart. In this story, we are introduced to Rachel, Miriam, Emma and others whose disrupted lives will never be the same. Rachel's story is one of coming of age, but more importantly, of coming into her own. These are strong, well-drawn characters who feel like family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and loved learning about Amish culture. I can't wait for the second story in the Daughter's of Caleb Bender saga.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Rachael M. Phillips on January 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I rarely read Amish tales, but I am thankful I read this one.

Dale Cramer, in the first of his Daughter of Caleb Bender series, relates a powerful 1920s story of Amish families who find themselves at odds with the state of Ohio's education laws. Caleb Bender leaves the farm his father and grandfather cultivated to seek freedom for his family in Mexico. Pioneers in a strange, wonderful land, they meet dangers that challenge their faith and beliefs in ways they never anticipated.

As the series name implies, Caleb is the family patriarch, but much of the action is seen through the viewpoints of his daughters: Rachel, Emma, and Miriam.

Again, I would not have predicted a male author could portray women's thoughts and hearts with such accuracy and vividness, but Paradise Valley accomplishes this--due to Cramer's wife's skillful proofreading of his manuscript, according to his acknowledgements.

Readers seeking adventure, contemplation, pathos, romance, and celebration will find Paradise Valley an excellent experience.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson on January 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Dale Cramer is one of my favorite authors, and his book "Bad Ground" was a masterpiece of modern storytelling. Of late, he has turned his knowledge of the Amish into a career-saving move by telling tales set against that well-loved backdrop of Christian fiction. Personally, I'm not a fan of Amish stories, particularly when they provide an escapist mentality, but I knew going into "Paradise Valley" that Cramer would paint life with all its colors, dark and light.

The story is set in 1922, and revolves around the Bender family. Their Amish way of life is threatened by local laws requiring they send their children to a government school instead of letting them work and learn on the farm. Soon the Benders are headed south, hoping for peace and freedom in Paradise Valley, a plot of land deep in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. There they will encounter ruthless banditos, rich hacienda owners, poor mestizos, and a culture that challenges their way of thinking. As always, Cramer creates characters that seem believable and nuanced. Dat, the family patriach, is a stern but multi-faceted man, while his daughters are distinct in their personalities. Rachel is the central character, a young woman pining for the man she loves back home in the States. The issues of racism and pacifism are addressed with great skill, and the female aspects of the story show new texture in Cramer's art.

My one caveat--and it's a large one, considering it's my usual complaint about Amish fiction--is that Cramer keeps everything nice and light, never really allowing his characters to face death, violence, or the issues that one would expect. Robert Morgan's "Gap Creek" has some similarities to this book, but did not flinch from the tragedies of life.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Katie Garvin on January 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I am not a big Amish fan, but Dale Cramer's book, Paradise Valley, was very interesting and very different than other Amish books I've read. Which was a nice change. I mean, these Amish people came face to face with bandits and several times the girls were nearly abducted! Yep, not a typical docile Amish story, to be sure! And the fact that this is based on real events--that there really was an Amish family who went to Mexico to start a new colony--was awesome!

I think maybe my biggest problem with this book was the writing style. It was very different than what I usually like--told more as a narration of Rachel's story then from deep POV "IN" Rachel's head. And the book was rather slow paced for a good majority of it. There are two characters who sleep together, and while there are no details given, I had a slight problem with it. There are never any consequences or recuperations after their sin is found out by the parents. I just wished I could have seen some repenting for their sin.

That aside, Paradise Valley makes for a good story, and I did enjoy reading it--even if I did start skimming a lot. The characters are warm and endearing, and while sometimes the emotions seemed a bit stilted, by the end of the book this Amish family had grown on me. It's amazing how, because they couldn't teach their children their own way, they embarked on an adventure that forever changed the lives of each character. Paradise Valley is a book Amish fans will enjoy.

I reviewed this book for Bethany House Publishers. Thanks to Jim for sending me a review copy. It was not required that I give a positive review, but solely to express my own thoughts and opinions of this book, which I have done.
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