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Plain Pursuit (A Daughters of the Promise Novel) Paperback – 2009
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Each Daughters of the Promise novel focuses on one woman's journey into an Amish Community where she discovers new meaning to the words faith, hope, and love. When Carley Marek takes a hiatus from her job, she leaves Texas and visits her friend Lillian in Amish country, Pennsylvania. Carley isn't there long when she meets Lillian's charming-but shunned-brother-in-law, Dr. Noah Stoltzfus.' When Lillian's stepson is stricken with a life-threatening disease, Noah is forbidden'to intervene, but he resolves to do whatever it takes to save the boy's life. Carley finds herself caught in the middle of her'feelings for Noah and her loyalty to'Lillian. And to further complicate matters, everyone around her is talking about God--a God she doesn't know and who appears to be punishing her for her past mistakes. When her hiatus is up, Carley must make a life-changing decision: stay and face the path that is set before her, or flee and leave the only love she's ever known.
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To be fair, I am clearly not the ideal reader for this book. To be honest, if not as fair, I find it hard to believe there is an ideal reader for this book. Judging from the jacket copy, Amish-centric stories are a burgeoning sub-genre in the Christian romance section of whatever bookstores have Christian romance sections. But I'm hard pressed to buy that even the most vacuous readers (if there are such things) will find something to enjoy in reading multiple versions of drek like this. I got this book for free from the somewhat dubious [...]. They offer free copies of their faux-religious books if you agree to post your review on a commercial site like Amazon. So I'll be posting this review there as well, I hope it drives sales up.
Here's the premise. Carley's a newspaper reporter in Texas. Her mom dies in a car accident and this makes her so sad she needs a change of scenery. So she takes a month vacation to Lancaster County, to stay with her old friend Lillian, who has converted and married Amish. Lillian's stepson, David, falls ill and has to visit an Englisch doctor, who happens to be his shunned uncle, Noah. Noah's shunning turns out to be a main point of contention in the novel. Carley has a crush on Noah, and he tries to use her to get back in with his family. Carley eventually begins to champion Noah, and meddles with his family in the hopes they will break their religious rules. She spends much of the book gushing about their pastoral way of life, yet she displays little respect for their ways or wishes. Most of the book concerns the just-the-tip reconciliation of Noah and his family as it builds toward an obvious reunion that piggybacks on the obvious union of Carley and Noah.
That's a boring plot, but it's passable at least. The same can be said about Wiseman's writing. (I understand that romance novels do not often rely on intricate plotting or writing full of flourish.) Where things really collapse irreparably is just how vapid the whole thing is. There's a lot of talk about God, and how important he is to the lives of all the characters. But none of the characters express any sort of intelligence when it comes to whatever religion they subscribe too. It's like listening to a sermon from someone who goes to church twice a year and feels righteous about it. Even if you're a Born Again, that's got to be annoying. Like this:
"Almost instantly, Lillian's explanation about the light switch and God game into her mind. Carley knew she had been guilty of an on-again, off-again relationship with God. She pondered if she had also been guilty of convenient love, only turning to God during times of trouble. Or just the opposite-turning her back on Him because she felt betrayed by Him when events became too difficult to bear. Who was she to judge anyone? Only God could do that."
That is seriously the deepest moment of introspection or reflection in the entire book, and it's pretty shallow. If you disagree and find that moving, then this is definitely a book for you. If, like me, you saw the cover picture (there are no young Amish lovers in this book, despite what the picture implies) and scoffed, then follow your gut and don't read it or even go near it or anything like it. The fact that so many colorless, unimaginative books like this are being published, when even the slightest effort on the part of a competent editor or writer could make them at least unique and, well, good rather than facile, says a lot about the grim state of publishing today. [...]
Carley Malek, a Houston journalist, is forced by her editor to take a month's vacation because she is not recovering well from personal tragedy. She ends up spending several weeks with her friend, Lillian, who had converted to the Amish faith in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and married Samuel, a widower with a young teenage son, David. Carley only plans to rest and recuperate and take advantage of her time off to write an in-depth article about the Amish. But when David becomes critically ill, her quiet visit quickly turns to something else. At the hospital Carley meets Dr. Noah Stoltzfus, a man Lillian and Carley are stunned to learn is Samuel's shunned brother.
To accept God's calling on his life, Noah turned from his Amish faith and family during his teens. He also antagonized his family by writing a book that invaded their privacy, a big Amish no-no. He and Carley are immediately attracted to each other, and he hopes she'll be his go-between with Samuel and his other family members. But Carley is reluctant to agree, because she doesn't want to offend Samuel and Lillian. Even after Noah risks his life to save David, the shunning--a reality that wounds the hearts of all involved--hangs over the family like a dark shroud and gravely impacts everyone's life.
Plain Pursuit is loaded with tender love and aching conflict. One can't experience the Amish shunning without emotional upheaval, so strong elements of pride, selfishness, and resentment surface, but so do humility, selflessness, and forgiveness. And as the characters soul-search and repent, they learn to trust the Lord and surrender their wills to Him.
I found Plain Pursuit a highly enjoyable read. So much so that it provoked me to buy Plain Perfect to read Samuel's and Lillian's story too. I found it equally touching, and look forward to reading all the books in the "Daughters of Promise" series.
Disclaimer: In accordance with Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255, this book was sent to me directly from the publisher and as such constitutes compensation for my review. All opinions are strictly my own.