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Paradise Valley (The Daughters of Caleb Bender) Paperback – Bargain Price, January 1, 2011
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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.
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Caleb Bender was determined that his younger children not attend the outsider school. They were schooled at home with what they needed and they helped on the farm when not in school. They were learning what they needed to have when they grew up. Only three of his children were affected, his daughter Rachel, and daughters, Leah and Barbara. The law came to get them and other children in the area. They were taken to a school where they were cleaned up and given non-Amish clothes and hairdos. The boys had their hair cut. They were losing not only their freedom but their identities too. Among the young boys taken was Jake Weaver who earlier that year had drawn Rachel’s attention as more than just a friend. Luckily for them, they were released back home within a short amount of time. Caleb and the other fathers found somewhere to go to avoid the school law. Caleb saw an advertisement for Paradise Valley, Mexico and land there for $10 an acre. He and others decided to go but Caleb and his family left first.
They traveled by train and then by wagon. Once in the valley, they set about drilling a well, clearing the fields and planting crops, and finally building a house where three families lived. Eventually two more houses were built for Mary and Emma, the older daughters, and their families. Paradise Valley was wonderful as it was said to be but it did have evil things in it- snakes, scorpions, and outlaws. Could the family survive here until the other families came? Would the other families come?
It is a delightful historical novel and explains a lot about the beliefs of the Amish as well as the hard life pioneers had in Mexico as well as in the US.