Thursday, December 16, 2010
Book Review: Anna's Return by Marta Perry
When Anna Beiler returns to the Pleasant Valley Amish after three years in the English world, she doesn't come alone-she comes with a baby daughter. Despite people's assumption, the child is not Anna's biological child but was adopted by her after the real mother, Anna's friend, tragically died. So Anna returns not seeking the redemption her family assumes. Instead, she's hoping to hide herself among the Plain People from the baby's violent father until she feels it's safe to go back into the world again. She tells herself she can do anything to protect her baby, even lie to the people who love her most. So she moves in with her brother Joseph and his wife Myra. She reconnects with her father, sister Leah, and Leah's new family. And she begins to spend time with Joseph's partner in his machine shop, Samuel, whose steady patience and thoughtful responses, which made him seem "slow" when they were children, now suggest to her a deeper understanding that sometimes infuriates her and more often makes her feel safe.
Returning isn't as easy as Anna had hoped, because it forces her to face the consequences of her own irresponsible behavior that led her to leave in the first place, and the pain she caused those she left behind. True redemption, she finds, is not a simple matter of pretend humility, but a deep change of the heart that means she will never be the same again. She learns, too, that redemption comes with a renewed love and appreciation for all the people in her life, the tightly bonded community that will always nurture and protect her.
In some ways, I think I came upon this book at the wrong time. Having read nothing but Amish fiction for a straight month and nothing but it (literally), I was a bit burnt out before I even started this one. The back cover blurb sounded great, really, but I felt like I had to make myself finish this one.
The story lagged a bit in several places, and I was disappointed that the relationship between Anna and Samuel didn't progress any faster than it did. There were also times when it was difficult to keep all the characters straight. I kept getting the relationships confused between which characters were siblings and which were cousins. Part of that could have easily been due to the fact that I have not yet read the first two books in this series.
I'm giving Anna's Return a rating of 3 stars because even though I had a tough time staying focused on the story, it was still a good one, especially with the Amish culture thrown in. Without the Amish aspect, it would've been quite dull.
**Many thanks to Berkley Publishing for providing a copy to review for the Inspy Awards.