Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts reveals a fascinating look into Amish culture.
Set in 1943, World War II invades the lives of Henry Mast and Miriam Coblentz, an American Amish couple ready to marry and settle into the predictable lives of their religious community. But Henry is drafted, and as a conscientious objector, he's sent to serve the war effort in a Civilian Public Service camp. Then Henry turns Miriam's world upside down--along with their entire Amish community--when he enlists in the army. Soon lines are drawn and loyalties are tested, especially Miriam's. While Henry battles enemies in Europe, Miriam may face an impossible decision: choosing between her devotion to Henry or her Amish way of life.
Younts, who comes from an Amish family, brings a fresh and an authentic voice to this beautifully crafted debut novel. I look forward to more books in this series!
When I agreed to read and review the second novel in this series, I had no idea what to expect my daughter found and purchased the first novel in the series, because we both are pretty fussy about reading a series from beginning to end.
So I opened up Promise to Return and began reading
I purposely chose a time that I could spend an hour or so uninterrupted, so I could concentrate enough to delve into this historical Amish novel.
What I didnt expect was to read and read until I finally put down the book a little past midnight. I was done! Elizabeth had held my attention, refusing to let go until the very end.
And it was good very good.
The story begins with Miriam Coblentz, who was almost married, until her boyfriend was drafted and sent to a Civilian Public Service camp. With their wedding postponed, shes feeling a bit impatient.
I can certainly identify with that!
Elizabeth can certainly identify with the impatience and the commitment it takes to stand by while the man you love fights for his country. She puts such heart and soul into her novels; I can easily feel the frustration and doubts that her main character exhibits.
I want to be careful not to spoil the story, so I wont speak of what happens with Miriam and Henry; I would suggest you to read the synopsis if you want to know more about the story before you begin reading it.
Against the backdrop of war, this story quickly drew me in with two compelling characters whose relationship and journey through the story kept defying my expectations until the end.
The unpredictability which makes this book such an absorbing read kicks right off from the start with Eli, who is not what one would expect from an Amish character. Once immature and flippant about everything, Eli is just beginning to be sobered by the war and its creeping influence over the entire world, even his secluded and sheltered community. His newfound seriousness is further catalyzed by the suffering he witnesses while working at a mental hospital.
At the same time, Christine, the other main character, also begins the story in a state of emotional tumult. While resigned to doing her duty, not only to support her country, but also to support her financially needy family, she stubbornly but inspirationally -- holds onto hope for a richer life and a happier future.
As the two begin to intertwine with each other and with other characters, they each struggle to balance the opposing forces in their lives, finding themselves in honest but complex dilemmas.
A rich and wrenching journey is then weaved by this accomplished author in full command of her art, fueled by the unpredictability mentioned earlier.
Near the beginning, the writer sets the tone with a minor, but eye-popping, plot turn where two patients in the mental hospital die. The sheer sadness, exemplified by the last message written on a chalkboard by one of these patients, is a breathtaking gut punch as effective as any Ive experienced in any story, any medium.
When further tragedy, much more central the story, befalls Christine, it is delivered with masterful building of dread and hope before ultimately resolving in a plot turn that then profoundly affects the futures of these characters.
Overall, such deft storytelling elevates this book from any genre to place it firmly in the arena of exquisite drama.
This is the first Elizabeth Byler Younts book that I have read and I enjoyed every minute of it and couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book in The Promise of Sunrise Series. Excellent read!!!!!!!!!!
This debut novel is one of the best first novels I have ever read. Elizabeth Byler Younts weaves her historical romance with the rich flavor the Amish community. She reveals the Amish life without lecturing or overloading her work with research. She does it beautifully though the characters she creates and the story world she builds. As a reader, you know these people and understand why they are the way they are. Set in World War II, this romance places the heroine, Miriam Coblentz, in the throes of a difficult decision: to stay with her people or join with her betrothed, Henry Mast, who has made the decision to fight for his country--a choice that violates so many of the Amish beliefs. This is the tale of how the couple comes to this moment and the choices they must makes a result.