"The problem with the English is that everyone wants to lead. No one wants to submit to authority." ~ Betsie's Journal
Imagine a novel where an Amish woman makes a bargain with her cousin and winds up experiencing what life is like for an English family in the 1970's. That is just the premise for the latest novel by author Stephanie Reed, The Bargain, her first novel in the Plain City Peace series.
Betsie Troyer has made a bargain with her cousin Nelson to mind the harness shop while he agreed to serve in the Chicago military hospital without being drafted for two years. The arrangement would include her living with the Sullivans, an English family during her apprenticeship, while her own parents have agreed to leave behind their Amish way of life and heading to Belle Center, Ohio. They have agreed to allow their children however, to make their own choices about whether to leave or stay behind. Betsie is more that convinced her parents are making the wrong decision.
She meets Michael Sullivan, a college drop out, hippie and the only son of the Sullivan's she is planning on working for when he arrives to pick her up for work in his yellow-jacket colored Super Bee. He lives in the small town of Hilliard and is prone to the typical emotional outbursts that were common for teens dealing with all the issues surrounding the time in which this novel takes place. He is moved to the peace movement and tries to teach Betsie some of the slang words of the English as she attempts her first visit to their local supermarket in order to fit in. She clearly doesn't have a clue to what she is saying or doing and finds herself at odds in how to fit in with this very different family.
She is befriended by Michael's younger sister, Shelia who is 12, who she teaches the value of hardwork in taking care of the house, which is being left by the wayside by the now newly liberated Phyllis Sullivan, Shelia's mom. The family is used to such modern conveniences like a dishwasher, washer, and dryer and the television which occupies the late night hours after dinner, which they are use to getting out of a box or by making a TV dinner which is clearly unheard of in Betsie's family.
What ensues along the way is a blending of two very different cultures and two very different types of people. There are some great humorous scenes like Betsie watching an episode of Gilligan's Island and isn't sure why a "good buddy" is being hit with a hat by another man all the time, or why Michael seems upset when Betsie fixes his blue jeans and removes all his patches to make him look less like a scarecrow and more like a respectable man. This is truly an example of an Amish woman who finds her way into That 70's show!
I received The Bargain by Stephanie Reed compliments of Kregel Publications and Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed are mine alone. There are some great quotes that are included at each chapter opens from Betsie as she journals what her life is like now living among the English family. This one was truly a different kind of Amish fiction for me than I have ever experienced and gave me new insight into what life would have been like for someone so different trying to fit in during a unique time in American history. I rate this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars and look forward to the next novel in this series.
What would you be willing to risk in order to follow your convictions? In the past and even today, people have left behind home and family, friends, employment for a better life. Or, if my family left all that they believed and the way they and their parents had lived, would I blindly follow? As I read The Bargain I had to think on this. This is a very different type of Amish story than most of those I have read, coming at it from the daughters whose parents left the Amish way of life. Although I have never been in this situation, nor has anyone that I know, Stephanie was able to make this personal and instead of telling me the story, she somehow managed to involve me as surely as if it was my own family. This also explains the difference in the Amish lifestyle that goes beyond the dress the very obvious things we see such as mode of travel and lack of electricity and electronics. Those who find that most books on the shelves these days are about the Amish and are looking for a change will find this refreshing, and those who love those same novels will be happy to add this to their collection.
I received this book as an advance reading copy from Amy at Litfuse Publicity Group and Kregel Publishers in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. These opinions are my own.