If you know me, you know that I often have little good to say about Christian fiction. You may also know that I'm way too picky for my own good and that I don't like to waste my time reading something I seriously doubt I'll enjoy. As a result, I don't read Christian fiction often, and I'm especially leery of authors that I haven't read before. Having read my share of "prairie romance" (think Janette Oke) as a teenager, I have avoided the Amish sub-genre entirely because there are so many of them for one thing, and for another the covers bring to mind such classics as Love Comes Softly and A Woman Named Damaris. Yikes.
That said, you can imagine my excitement when I opened a box of books to read for a project I've been working on and found Beside Still Waters, which pictures a girl in a kapp with a quilt on her lap. Still, it had to be a read, so I took a deep breath, asked for good wishes on Facebook, and dived in. What I found was a well-written and touching story that I was happy to have read.
Marianna Sommers has always felt that her life is shaped by the tragedy that took the lives of her two sisters on the night she was born. In an attempt to fill that void, she tried to be the perfect daughter, perfect sister, and perfect Amish girl. She also dreams to be the perfect Amish wife to Aaron, the good Amish boy she's adored forever. However, her parents have plans to change all that, moving the family from their established community in Indiana to the wild and sparsely-populated mountains of Montana. Although Marianna dreads leaving everything familiar and comfortable, her parents have grown weary of the way the close-knit community is so involved in - and critical of - the details and problems of their lives. Montana offers an opportunity for a fresh start.
In Montana, Marianna finds that while she must adjust to many changes, they are not all bad. In the remote West Kootenai area, people must help each other, both Amish and Englisch. Marianna finds it suprisingly easy to make friends with the Englisch restaurant owner, Annie, and the very helpful and attractive Ben. It is not long before she finds herself questioning all she has been taught about God and the ways we should relate to Him. In her own special spot beside still waters, and through the midst of unexpected circumstances, Marianna encounters the peace of God in a much more personal way than she ever would have imagined.
This book is a well-written and enchanting glimpse into the heart of a simple Amish girl who simply wants to live the best life she can, without knowing exactly how. I found my heart aching for Marianna at times, as she dealt with the pain of her family's past and the confusion of trying to live in one world while her heart was drawn to another. Having never experienced the genre before, I can't say whether it's a good Amish book, but I can definitely say that it is a good book, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel ... and learning which man Marianna chooses!