For the last three weeks I've been immersed in the world of Hannah Lapp, an Amish teenager whose story was conceived by Cindy Woodsmall and retold in her trilogy "Sisters of the Quilt."
Hannah's story was originally divided into three books: "When the Heart Cries," "When the Morning Comes," and "When the Soul Mends," but all have been included in the compilation "Sisters of the Quilt." I settled in to start reading the compilation, at first concerned about the 1000+ pages, but by the end of Book 1 was thrilled that I could continue reading Hannah's journey without interruption.
Hannah begins this journey as a free-spirited seventeen-year-old, slightly chafing under the restrictions of her Old Order Amish community, especially when the rules don't allow her to openly pursue her budding romance with the neighbor's
Mennonite grandson. Suddenly her world collapses as Hannah is the victim of a brutal attack by an Englischer (an outsider); her family and community suspect that Hannah is more willing participant than victim, and rumors swirl about her character.
Hannah's pain and sense of abandonment compel her to leave home and seek refuge with an aunt that had been shunned by the community thirty years before. While her friends and family struggle with Hannah's disappearance, she begins the painful journey of rebuilding her life and her sense of self-worth. Along the way she follows her childhood dreams and builds strong relationships in the outside world.
Her carefully constructed new life begins to crumble as Hannah is drawn back into her old community to help her sister, who had never been able to come to grips with the role she had played in Hannah's downfall. Will Hannah choose to rejoin the community, or cut the ties that bind her to the old ways?
I have long enjoyed reading Amish fiction and have always finished each book with a feeling of serenity and a yearning to be a better person. Although the end result was the same with this book, the emotional journey it took me through was much more painful. Unlike other Amish books I've read, this one dealt with much deeper issues: mental illness, rape, and medically-mandated birth control...all issues that the Ordnung (rules of conduct) of the Old Amish Order find difficult to deal with.
The rigidity and lack of compassion by the community when faced with these issues was troubling to me...so much so that at one point I found myself sobbing in compassion during one scene. I can't remember the last time that I felt so emotionally invested in a book's character, and the fact that I did in this case is a testament to the skill of the author.
Don't get me wrong...the subjects were dealt with in a very tactful manner; if this were a movie it would have earned a mild PG rating. Since I expected a more G-rated version that is typical Amish fare, I was surprised and impressed that this author delved deeper into the human psyche and the expectations and customs of the Amish community in turmoil.
If you enjoy Amish fiction, you will definitely love this book. If you'd like a chance to win my copy, check back here tomorrow...a giveaway is coming!
NOTE: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.