Friday, December 3, 2010

"The Storekeeper’s Daughter" by Wanda E. Brunstetter, reviewed by Dorothy Bush

Barbour Publishing Inc., Softcover, 318 pages $12.95 U.S

The Storekeeper’s Daughter is an excellent story about the Amish culture in Pennsylvania, as well as an interesting discourse on the differences between our modern society and the society of the Amish. It is also a riveting story about human relationships.

This story concerns the Fishers, an Amish family in an Amish community near Paradise, Pennsylvania. The main characters are Naomi, her father Abraham, and to a lesser extent Naomi’s siblings. Ginny Meyers is Naomi’s ‘English’ friend and Naomi’s sweetheart is Caleb Hoffmeir.

What develops in this tale is a wonderful look at family and human relationships, the Amish lifestyle, the trials and tribulations of a people trying to remain true to their beliefs, and the clashing differences in the two cultures. This is a story of love and loss, action and consequence, hate and forgiveness; a story of life without all the trappings of a modern society.

Not yet twenty years old, Naomi Fisher is thrust into the role of cook, housekeeper, mother to her younger siblings and store clerk for her father when her mother is killed in a tragic accident. As the oldest daughter and with no time to grieve for her mother, she must comfort and mother the young ones.

Over the following months, her promise to her dying mother to look after the children weighs heavy on young Naomi. She’s in love with a young man that she’s known since childhood, but her father will not allow her to be courted as she is needed at home and in the store. Taught to obey her parents and fulfill her duties and responsibilities, she sees no way out of her dilemma in the coming years and no hope for a future with her young man. But life has a way of kicking us when we’re down and it matters not whether it is in the fast-paced society of today or the quiet, traditional culture of the Amish.

The story that the author weaves is both painful and heartwarming. Her characters feel like real, flesh and blood people, and the dialogue flows easily. The author’s use of words and phrases in Pennsylvania Dutch, not only adds to the rich fabric of the tale, but underscores her familiarity with her subject.

When I saw this book at the library in the New Book section, I almost didn’t pick it up. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a book that I expected would be a little short on action. We live not far from a Mennonite community, though, and I have long been fascinated by the Amish and the Mennonites and their ability to hold on to their culture. The fact that they can maintain their simple lifestyle in our fast-paced world is a testament to their beliefs and dedication. There are a significant number of reference to the bible and the book has a distinctly Christian sensibility but the story is not written in a preachy fashion. I will definitely look for the other books in this series.

The Storekeeper’s Daughter is the first in a series of books called “Daughters of Lancaster County”. The next books in the series to date are: The Quilter’s Daughter, The Bishop’s Daughter, and The Hope Chest.

Dorothy Bush lives in Eastern Ontario. A mother and grandmother, her dual passions are reading and writing. She works part-time in Essential Skills and Literacy Training and encourages everyone she meets to turn on their imagination and find joy in written words.

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