Book Write-Up: The Proving, by Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis.  The Proving.  Bethany House, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

Amanda (or Mandy) Dienner grew up in an Amish family in Lancaster County.  She had a twin sister, Arie Mae, and a brother, Jerome.  Mandy had a boyfriend, Josiah, and Mandy caught Josiah kissing Arie Mae.  Mandy is devastated and leaves Lancaster County to live as an Englisher (a non-Amish person).  After five years, Mandy learns that her mother has passed on and has bequeathed to Mandy the popular bed-and-breakfast.  Mandy wonders why it was not left to Arie Mae, who was more involved in running it.  Mandy returns to Lancaster County but has to become accustomed once more to Amish ways, while dealing with her estrangement from her family.

Catrina (or Trina) Sutton is a twenty-five year old woman who alienates people through her blunt speaking.  Trina leaves the nursing-home business to do home care, and she connects with an elderly woman named Gail.  Trina is also coping with the death of her fiancee in an automobile accident a year before.  Trina accepts a mystery vacation and ends up at Mandy’s bed-and-breakfast.  The two initially do not get along: Trina was not expecting to be in Amish country, and Mandy, like many, is turned off by Trina’s bluntness.

I have read Beverly Lewis’ more recent novels over the past two years, and I ordinarily give them three or four stars.  She is a sophisticated writer, but her stories do not always make a connection with me, and some plot-lines seem to be thrown into the stories just for the sake of throwing them into the stories.  This book made more of a connection with me, however, as it dealt with such themes as alienation, estrangement, and reconciliation.  The background information was endearing, too: the description of the breakfasts served at the bed-and-breakfast and how Mandy’s mother regarded the place as a ministry, and the description of the family, as Mandy’s father liked to read the Psalms after an especially hard day of work.  The scene in which Mandy honestly prays to God about her struggle to forgive her sister and tolerate Trina is also poignant.  Perhaps one could say that the book sometimes told more than showed, particularly when Josiah tells Mandy how much Arie Mae missed her.  But that scene was still moving and, in its own way, emotional, and the characters were believable.

The book would have been better had it explored in more detail Mandy’s estrangement from Amish culture and her adaptation to “English” ways, as that would have amplified Mandy’s tension over whether to sell the bed-and-breakfast or stay in Lancaster County.  Still, the book was more effective in describing Mandy’s apprehensions about being back in Lancaster County, and when they did and did not accord with reality.

Also, the book could have been better had Mandy helped Trina to heal.   The book was somewhat one-sided: Trina was somewhat of a therapist to Mandy, but I cannot recall Mandy offering Trina sound advice (though maybe she did so in the prayer scene, albeit accidentally).  Trina’s problems were solved through romance, and, while the romance was charming (it was an opposites-attract sort of romance), more attention should have been paid to Trina’s healing.

The book was enjoyable to read, though, on account of its heavy style and the themes that it addressed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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