It's 1971, and Betsie Troyer's peaceful and predictable life is about to become anything but.
When their parents flee the Amish, nineteen-year-old Betsie and her seventeen-year-old sister Sadie are distraught. Under the dubious guidance of a doting aunt, the girls struggle to keep the secret, praying their parents will return before anyone learns the truthâ€”a truth that may end all hopes of Betsie's marriage to Charley Yoder.
Worse still, Betsie must learn a trade while she boards with a dysfunctional Englisher family: Sheila, a twelve-year-old desperately searching for a friend and in dire need of her mother; the free-spirited mother, who runs off to "find herself" on the stage; the angry father whose structured life crumbles; and Michael, a troubled college dropout nearly killed in the Kent State Massacre.
Thrust into the English world, Betsie must grapple with the realities of war and miniskirts, pot parties and police brutality, protests and desertion. Can she help the Sullivan family and find peace in her new surroundings, or must she forget the bargain she made and seek refuge back in Plain City with protective and reliable Charley?
This book was an absolute disaster for the characters! Reed takes a train wreck of a bargain and makes it a heck of a good story. The best way to describe this story is That 70's Show meets the Amish. I felt so bad for Betsie throughout the story, especially with how heartbroken she was when her parents bailed on the only life she knew. And when it came down to either marry the man she was supposed to wed, or forever live a life she was never meant to have, she has no idea which one is the right choice. A well written novel that reads like nothing else out there in the genre, colorful, vibrant, and a dynamic piece of fiction.
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
I am an incredible fan of Amish fiction, but I do hold it to a somewhat high standard. While I may jump at the chance to review an Amish fiction book, I do expect the story to be well-written, and the Christian message needs to be clear. I do not intend to read the same story over and over again. I am somewhat reticent when reading an author is new to me in the genre, and sometimes I am disappointed.
Not so with Stephanie Reed! I have never read a historical Amish fiction book, but I think that is the best way to describe this. I was even more pleased to read that the author had loosely based this story on a real life person. There is nothing better than that! The story was well-written, and she always kept the reader guessing as to what the next step in the story might be. She even left the story somewhat open-ended at the conclusion which leaves the option of a sequel (I hope so!). I have never read a story of someone leaving the Amish, and I was amazed to read about some of the more disconcerting beliefs associated with this faith.
The Christian message is strong in this novel. I have never seen potential fallacies of Amish belief stated so clearly in a book, and it truly made me realize that although I could never be Amish because of lifestyle, I don't think I could ever espouse their belief system. I also realize and accept the fact that it does depend on the Amish community as to what exactly is believed. Regardless, the Amish people tend to be way too legalistic for me, and that was true back in the 1970's, too.
I recommend this very different kind of Amish book to my readers. It is an easy read, and I believe it will make you consider your own faith, belief system, and what is truly important in this world.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Set in 1971, The Bargain introduces the reader to Betsie Troyer, a young Amish women, who is living in both the Amish and "English" worlds. Why? Because her cousin Nelson bought a Harness shop, but was drafted into the Army before he could learn the business. Nelson therefore asks Betsie to learn the business in order to teach it to him when he returns.
In Betsie's Amish world her parents have turned their back on their Amish faith after they learned the truth of Romans 10:9 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Leaving her and her sister Sadie trying to figure out how to convince them to return to their community and their Amish faith.
In her English world she lives with the Sullivan Family, while she is learning the business. She finds her bishop's advice to spend as little time as possible with them nearly impossible, especially as she gets to know them.
I found the main characters easy to like, but my heart went out to the Sullivan's son, Michael. Michael was a witness to the Kent State shooting, which resulted in him withdrawing further into the 1970's peace culture. His attitude and outside appearance, masked his broken and searching heart. As a result his relationship with his father was strained, mainly because their personalities were so different. His father loved him but just didn't know how to relate to him.
Shelia Sullivan is another character that captured my heart. She is eleven years old and full of joy. Even when her and Michael's mother abandons the family to pursue an acting career.
Gerald Sullivan is the patriarch of the family. He has a good heart, and is trying to keep his family together, but when things spiral out of control his temper flares. This results with words being said that he regrets and relationships needing to be repaired.
I found myself drawn into the story, and didn't want to put it down. The reality of what the early 1970's were like was clear...the America of the 1950's, and early 1960's had disappeared. The Vietnam War both tore families apart and drew them together, as parents and their children navigated through those turbulent times.
The Bargain is the first book in The Plain City Peace series, isn't a stand-alone because Stephanie Reed doesn't bring the story to a neat and tidy conclusion; which left me wanting more... now I'll patiently wait for book two to find out what happens next. Or maybe not so patiently...
**The Bargain by Stephanie Reed was provided for me free by Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.
In The Bargain, Stephanie Reed has written a different type of Amish fiction, one where the main character is placed in the English world, living with a dysfunctional family and working in a harness shop. Opposites in both character personalities and cultures make for an interesting read.
The story is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam years. Having been a graduate school student in 1971, I can vividly recall the unrest, tension and heartbreak of that era and I think Stephanie did an excellent job creating a realistic feel of the time.
Betsie is struggling to deal with her parents' leaving the Amish church in order to become followers of Christ, and Stephanie brings out an element of the Amish faith that is often hidden in fiction. Betsie reflects: "Joining the Amish church and keeping every rule in the Ordnung, that was the surest way to maybe go to heaven someday. . . . But even the Amish couldn't know which place they were going to end up in until they stood in front of the good Lord Himself and He revealed it. It was prideful to believe otherwise." But Betsie's parents had read the Scriptures for themselves and sought freedom in Christ. Betsie's Dat wants her to understand why they made the decision to leave and to come with them. "Do you want to know what true wickedness is?" he asks. "It's teaching people that they can't be sure of their salvation before their time on this earth is up."
Michael, a college dropout, is a troubled young man, greatly affected by the Kent State shootings on a day when he was walking to class. "They died, but I'm still here. And I don't understand why. Because apparently I escaped death solely so I could be drafted and sent to Vietnam to die." Betsie and Michael gradually form a friendship, maybe because they each sense a need in the other. And I loved the humor in the scene where Betsie uses her sewing skills to "repair" Michael's torn hippie jeans.
I'm not always a fan of storylines where an Amish character is thrust into the English world, but Stephanie did a good job at creating an unusual story that goes beyond traditional Amish fiction. She also gives some deep and thought-provoking questions at the end, perfect for group discussion.
The Bargain is the first book in the Plain City Peace series - and while it reaches a satisfactory conclusion, it's obvious there is much more to come. I believe fans of Amish fiction will enjoy this novel.
This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity and Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
The Bargain, it is between Betsie and her cousin Nelson. He is acquiring a harness shop, but with the Vietnam War on is drafted and is station at a Chicago hospital for two years. They are both Amish, and now she is stepping outside the box and learning a male trade to help her cousin. He bought the business from Mr Sullivan, and she will be living with some English during the week.
Yes, this is a very unusual story, but according to the Author, it is loosely based on a real person. We are in the midst of the civil unrest that hit this country during this war. We meet Charley who was at Kent State the day the world changed for a lot of young people.
Charley is now a changed young man, and we deal with the dysfunction that is going on in the Sullivan home. We also see God trying to work on Betsie, to make her come to him and accept her salvation. Her parents have found their way to God and want so much for their children to come.
I am so glad that this book is continued....I want to spend more time with Betsie and her family, and hopefully the Sullivan. Enjoy a totally different Amish story.
I received this book through Litfuse Publicity Book Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.