Setting sells this story: A review of The Guardian by Beverly Lewis

I swore off Amish novels after I moved to Amish country, and slowly, I’ve been building some back into my reading collection. I was intrigued by the premise of Beverly Lewis’ latest, The Guardian, so I thought I’d give it a try.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn The Guardian, an Amish widow loses one of her children off the back of the buggy one night on their way home. A frantic search by the community yields no trace of little Sarah, until an English woman (the Amish description of those outside of their community) shows up with the girl. Jodi, the English woman, is house-sitting in Lancaster County. She’s a teacher and engaged but she and her fiancé are having a disagreement on their future–whether or not they’ll have children. Jodi is grieving the loss of her only sister to leukemia and doesn’t want to bring a child into a world where she might lose a child. As she spends time with her new Amish friends–the little girl is enamored of Jodi and calls her an angel–she begins to open herself up to God again and finds herself in the surprising position of substitute teacher in the Amish school.

I have enjoyed Lewis’ novels in the past. She writes compelling conflict and characters set in Amish and Mennonite families, and I tend to trust her assessments of Amish life. I based much of what I knew of the Amish when I moved here to what I read in her books.

That said, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped I would. The characters seemed flat and the plot was predictable. And while I think we can learn some valuable lessons from the Amish way of life, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that being among the Amish can cause a change of heart so radically. Maybe that’s a personal pet peeve.

I do love that I recognize places and road names in Lewis’ books. I feel like I could drive to Hickory Hollow and encounter these characters. Her books, as are many in the Amish genre, are popular and Lancaster County draws busloads of tourists every season. I admit I’m still fascinated by the culture and community, but seeing Amish buggies and Amish people becomes commonplace after a while. Maybe it’s harder to become engrossed in the story when you live in the same region as the setting.

I’m not saying no one will like this book, but it was one that didn’t meet my expectations.

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In exchange for my review, I received a free digital copy of The Guardian from Bethany House Publishers.

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