Thursday, June 23, 2011
It started with tragedy and ended with a question: will she or won't she?
Marianna Sommers is nineteen years old and facing the usual challenges of being an Amish teen. Should she experiment with the outside world, the Englisch? Or should she stay within her boundaries, follow the guidelines of Amish life, and formally join her church? It's no spoiler to say that Marianna is very devout and has no desire to stray from the Amish way. She has other constraints, though. Born on the day of a terrible accident, she feels pressured to be all things to all people, to make up for the losses her family suffered the day she entered the world.
Marianna, wrapped up in the courting rituals of a young man in the community, doesn't realize that her parents are also suffering. Their solution is a major change: a move from Indiana to a smaller, more intimate Amish group in Montana. Marianna breaks out of her usual quiet to beg to be left in Indiana, finally agreeing to stay in Montana for at least six months to give the move a fair chance. After six months, she may return to Indiana and the man she's loved for most of her life.
The family finds many differences not limited to the landscape. Montana Amish are less bound by the traditions and rules of the church, often by necessity. They befriend outside of their faith, working and socializing with Englisch people. It takes Marianna a while to adjust to interacting with people who do not follow the Amish way, but she finds her skills as baker and quilt-maker to be useful in both cultures. She also finds peace in Montana in the mountains, in the woods, and beside the still waters of a beaver-made pond.
Author Tricia Goyer did her homework before writing Beside Still Waters. The Sommers family is true to the faith and culture. Bits of Pennsylvania Dutch language are sprinkled in, as are Amish methods of farming and cooking and completing basic household chores. The family isn't perfect; each member, from parents to the youngest child, has faults and doubts to confront. Goyer takes readers inside the thoughts and emotions of Marianna, especially, as she reaches adulthood and faces difficult decisions.
Beside Still Waters is only the first. Goyer plans more novels to follow Marianna, her friends, and her family. To follow Tricia Goyer on Twitter, look for @triciagoyer.