Leslie Gould. Amish Sweethearts. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2016. See here to buy the book.
Amish Sweethearts is Book Two of the Neighbors of Lancaster County series. I was able to follow and appreciate the second book without reading the first, even though there were a lot of characters whom I did not really know.
The Lehmans are Amish, whereas their neighbors, the Becks, are not. Lila Lehman and Zane Beck were good friends during their childhood and adolescence. Both enjoyed learning and talking about topics. They became more alienated from each other with time, however. Zane joined the military and went to Afghanistan. Lila was courting the bishop’s son, Reuben. While Reuben is a kind, loving man, he is a quiet sort, and he prefers to make things rather than reading and talking about topics, which Lila liked to do with Zane. Zane and Lila both have romantic feelings towards each other, as much as they would like to suppress them. But there are complications standing in the way of their relationship. Would Zane be willing to become Amish to marry Lila? Would Lila be willing to leave the church to marry Zane?
The book had a lot of characters, and, at first, it was difficult to keep track of all of them. Leslie Gould should have included some sort of family tree at the beginning or end of the book, as is done in some of the other Amish books I have read. While the book did have a lot of characters, they were likable. There was Lila’s brother Simon, a happy-go-lucky, independent person, who goes against Amish beliefs by joining the military. There is Lila’s stepfather Tim, who is stern, yet still has humanity underneath his stern exterior. There is Beth, the local Amish schoolteacher. Beth is Tim’s love interest (since Tim is widowed), and she has an intuition about how people are truly feeling. She can tell that Lila has feelings for Zane, even when Lila is courting Reuben. There is Charlie, who is non-Amish and has married into Lila’s family (which is in the previous book). Charlie is a mentor to Zane. There is also Casey, a woman soldier who serves along with Zane in Afghanistan. Casey would like for her relationship with Zane to be more than friendship. While she is slightly bewildered about Zane’s feelings for Lila, Casey still fits in well when she is around the Amish.
The book had interesting passages about Zane’s attempts to explain to his non-Amish friends his relationship with the Amish. There is a scene in which Zane and his military friends see a picture of Lila on Zane’s phone and talk about the Amish. Another poignant scene is when Zane is explaining the Amish to an Afghan friend. The Afghani is surprised that such people (i.e., people who live simply, without the convenience of modern technology) exist in America, for he stereotyped Americans as rich and technologically-advanced.
Of particular interest to me was the book’s interaction with pacifism, or non-resistance. Zane wrestles with the possibility that he as a soldier may have to kill someone, and he feels horrible after actually killing an Afghan. He wrestles with whether he supports the war in Afghanistan, and with whether he is a pacifist. What was surprising to me was that there were Amish people who themselves wrestled with pacifism or non-resistance, even if they accepted it as an identity-marker. The bishop and Lila told Zane that he should not feel bad about killing the Afghan, since Zane, in doing so, was protecting his unit, and other people. Lila’s step-father, Tim, was expressing strong reservations about non-resistance, saying that he does not really feel that he should do nothing were his family to be threatened.
The book was thoughtful, and it had likable characters. I may read more books by Leslie Gould in the future.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.