Posts Tagged ‘Amish’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Stephen B’s Picks

December 18, 2013

My name is Stephen Bank and I have been working in Wake County Public Libraries for over 12 years. My favorite genre is mysteries, but I also like Historical Nonfiction and sometimes human interest stories as you will see from the following 5 short blogs.

Snow in August by Pete Hamill
Having been raised in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in New York City, I have found no one who captures the essence of the Big City like Hamill. This touching story takes place in Brooklyn just after WWII, where an extraordinary relationship develops between 11 year old Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a Polish refugee. Michael’s Dad was killed in the war and he and his Mom are just surviving. The relationship between Michael and the Rabbi teaches us how all people can live together in all types of circumstances.   Read my full-length post here.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
It’s 1890 and Chicago politicians will do anything to bring the next World’s Fair to their city. As various factions battle against other sections of the United States for the Fair, something very diabolical is going on. Chicago wins the rights to the World’s Fair and now there will be the infighting from those factions who want to profit from producing the Fair. There is also a serial killer loose, but at first no one realizes that the dead women have not died of natural causes! We are really dealing with the two stories, the Fair and the murders.  Larson’s unbelievable research makes you feel like you are there, living in Chicago. And this is a true story!  Read my full-length post here.

The  Informationist  by Taylor Stevens
In this book you will meet one of fiction’s most interesting leading protagonists, Vanessa “Michael” Munroe.  Abandoned in darkest Africa by her missionary parents as a teenager, Vanessa has to learn every possible survival skill…which she does. As an adult, she is self-sufficient and capable of anything, including killing to save herself and her clients. She is not evil and she hires herself out to secure information for clients.  She is fascinating and if you become “hooked” as I did you will seek out Stevens’ two successive novels with ‘Michael’ as the main heroine. If you do some research on author Stevens and her background, it may become clearer to you how she arrived at this talent and the development of ‘ Michael ‘ as a leading character!  Read another review here.

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
This was a new discovery for me. This book is the first in a series of books where our main protagonist is Kate Burkholder, the chief of police of Painters Mill, Ohio. I always thought that the main Amish community was in Pennsylvania but there is a strong Amish community in Ohio. The Amish and English residents have lived besides each other for years but not entirely peacefully! Although they were peaceful, there always was some resentment of the Amish.  Kate was brought up in the Amish community but a series of brutal murders convinced her that she didn’t belong there.  Despite that, she returned to Painter’s Mill after some big city training to be the new Police Chief. A new murder and Kate is convinced she must find the culprit before there is another murder. Castillo has followed this initial story with several other books with Burkholder as her leading protagonist. Not only is this a solid read but you will learn some things about the Amish communities.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
This is the different selection, one I would not ordinarily select but it was suggested by a fellow librarian I trust. Samuel Lake is preacher, a good one but one who has alienated his parish enough that they don’t renew his contract. Now it is time for Samuel and his wife, Willadee and their three children to return to her family’s farm in south Arkansas and the annual reunion of the Moses’ family. And that is the catch…!  You will fall in love with Samuel and Willadee’s precocious eleven year old daughter, Swan. And as you get to meet and know the rest of the Moses clan, you will see the good and the bad. If you have an extended family as I do, you will understand their trials and tribulations.  Samuel has to face his own demons … why can’t he hold on to a congregation? Plus there certainly are members of the Moses’ clan that will present their own challenges. This book will touch your heart, I promise.


Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo

June 28, 2013

Breaking SilenceKate Burkholder is the police chief in a small Ohio town when she gets an emergency call one winter evening. Three members of an Amish family are dead in a barn. It is the father, mother and the father’s brother who have perished in a poorly ventilated cesspit in the barn. Now it is Kate’s responsibility to investigate the accident and inform the family’s four children that their parents are dead.

For Kate, this is going to be especially difficult because she was once Amish and she understands that community. When the medical examiner examines the bodies he discovers that it may not be an accident. Added to her agenda may be something that is tied into the murders. There have been multiple incidents of members of the Amish community being harassed and even beaten up. Because the Amish just want to be left alone, it is going to be very difficult for Kate to get any cooperation from them. But because the incidents against the Amish can be considered ‘hate crimes,’ the state sends an investigator to assist Kate: John Tomasetti. Tomasetti and Kate have worked together before, both in a professional and in a private collaboration.

I am very pleased to find a new mystery author who writes a solid narrative. I also was pleased that I learned much about the Amish. Please give a look at Linda Castillo and Breaking Silence.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford

March 27, 2013

Welcome to Heavenly, Pennsylvania, a small town surrounded by Amish farms.  In Heavenly the Amish and English (non-Amish) folk have learned to coexist.  For Claire Weatherly, it is the perfect place to reboot her life after the hustle and bustle of New York City and a divorce.  Her Aunt Diane runs the local bed and breakfast and is willing to help Claire rebuild her life.  Claire decides to open up a shop, Heavenly Treasures, featuring furniture and crafts made by her Amish neighbors.  Unfortunately for Claire the previous tenant of her shop, Walter Snow, was a crook notorious for ripping off the Amish.  She realizes she must work to restore relations with the Amish.

Things go from bad to worse when Snow is found murdered in the alley behind Heavenly Treasures.  The prime suspect is a young Amish man, Eli, known in town to be a hot head.  Eli is trying to court Claire’s employee and friend, Ruth, but his reputation makes Ruth’s father leery. Claire is sympathetic to Eli, and she cannot imagine him as a murderer.

To further complicate matters, the detective investigating Snow’s murder, Jakob Fischer, is a man baptized in the Amish Church, who left to pursue a career in law enforcement.  As a result he has been shunned by the Amish.  Claire realizes Jakob is in a difficult situation and tries to help him as he investigates the murder of Snow.  We also get the sense that there may be a romance brewing between them.  Will Claire and Jakob find the killer?

The second book in the series, Assaulted Pretzel has just been released. Author Laura Bradford will be speaking at West Regional Library on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2 pm.  Please call the library at 919-463-8500 for more details.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Growing Up Amish : a Memoir by Ira Wagler

July 11, 2012

The Amish have always fascinated me. I find it amazing and wonderful that a group of people would voluntarily give up cars, televisions, telephones and other “worldly” things so they can focus on their community and their spiritual lives. However, I had never thought about what it would be like to actually be Amish.

Ira Wagler has changed that for me, now that I have read his very honest and moving memoir about being born into a Midwestern community of Amish.  Wagler makes it clear that there are many wonderful things about being part of such a close and supportive community. For example, when his brother Titus was paralyzed as a result of a diving accident in a farm pond, the members of their Aylmer, Ontario, settlement paid every penny of the $80,000 hospital bill.

However, as he grew into a young man, Ira felt confined by all the seemingly arbitrary rules.  His hair had to be an exact length and no longer, with no beard allowed till he married, and even then he was not permitted to grow a mustache. His horse-drawn buggy could have some modern conveniences but others were considered “sinful.” He could not have any “English” (non-Amish) friends but could only associate with them in business and non-personal ways.

Hardest of all for him was the fact that if he ever expressed any doubts or yearnings for anything outside his Amish world, he was met with platitudes like “Just decide to do what is right” or “Just straighten up and settle down.”

Ira left his community several times during his youth, searching for something to assuage his inner restlessness.  However, he kept coming back, even though he knew his inability to make up his mind was torturing both him and his family.

Finally, an Amish friend who was not born into the community but was a later convert helped Ira solve his inner dilemma. He realized that he had been motivated by fear rather than faith.  Now, finally, he began to address God not with formal prayers out of a book, but from the heart.  He realized that he could never “get it right” on his own, never make up for all the hurt he had caused others.  Only God in His redemptive love could do that.

Once Ira began to face the truth rather than running from it, he gradually gained the courage to make the decision that would determine his future. Will he stay and commit to being a member of the Amish for life? Or will he leave and face excommunication?

What I liked about Ira’s story was that we can all relate to it on some level.  At some point in our lives we have to face the truth about ourselves and for better or worse learn how to live that truth. That momentous step, though it can be painful, can also be the opening into empowerment and peace with ourselves.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog

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