When the book begins the Amish Bender family lives in Salt Creek Township in eastern Ohio. The year is 1922. The patriarch of the Bender family Caleb Bender, and several other fathers, are arrested for failing to send their minor children to public school. Caleb then decides that he will move his family to Paradise Valley, Mexico, where the American Government will not interfere in "their Amish way of life." One of the daughters is named Rachel and throughout most of the book she is age 15. She is a mature, steadfast, reflective, and easy to like character. Two other sisters are Emma and Miriam, Emma was (I would consider) a more minor character, Miriam--especially towards the end of the book was a more pronounced character. But, it is Rachel that we read about the most. Their travel to Mexico and then establishing a homestead and farm is written about in detail. The family is close-nit, loving, forgiving. Caleb Bender has an adventurous spirit. His family trusts in him and in His deep faith to make the right decision for their family. The daughter's of Caleb Bender each have romantic interests, and each of these stories are as varied as the daughter's are in their personalities.
The wild and rugged high plains and mountains of Mexico are where the Bender family settles. The environment is a reflection of the local peoples, this too becomes apart of the Bender's family story.
I liked this book a lot!
I felt that often romance and the conflicts in pursuit of romance are often the main theme of Amish stories. Yes, trust and faith in God is the thrust of the stories, but romance is how the storyline usually unveils. But, in Paradise Valley there is a western/cowboy type feeling. A character we are introduced to after the Bender families arrival, gives the book some added umph! (Okay I'm just going to say it) This character gives the book masculinity. Amish stories are usually bought my women, I think that some men might would be more enticed to read this book because of this new twist in Amish books. (Of course my own opinion) I would love to see an entire book evolved around this character. I'm anxious to read book 2 that will be available in January 2012, a good guess is that the book will follow the storyline that develops from Miriam.
Thank you to An Open Book and Bethany House for my free review copy.
Published by Bethany House January 2011, 400 pages
Daughters of Caleb Bender Series Book #1
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In January 2012 Book #2 of Daughters of Caleb Bender series will be available, The Captive Heart.