Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Sister's Secret

Happy Independence Day! Due to computer breakdowns and other circumstances, the blog tour was suspended for yesterday, but we're back today. I've already had a few entries for the contest, but there's still time to get in your sweet or silly story about your sister in order to win a copy of the book. Just drop me an email or leave it in the comments section.

As I've said before, I was an only child (until I was 22, long story), and I think that it really effects the way I interact with the rest of the world. I totally do not get sibling rivalry. Objectively I understand it and its function in the family, but when it plays itself out in my own family, I feel like I'm watching a foreign culture whose rituals and language I don't comprehend. The other night Jesse and Doogie were insulting each other back and forth. It was getting kind of ugly, so I felt the need to step in. When I spoke up, Doogie told me to stay out of it. He explained, almost kindly, that because I didn't grow up with siblings I didn't understand. So I kept quiet and in a few minutes they were laughing. Tonight as we were getting ready to leave Mom's and come home, Doogie and Molly started arguing and insulting each other to the point that I was ready to ground both of them. Rude names flew back and forth along with accusations until I was ready to leave them both at my mother's. We finally got everyone tucked into the car and within five minutes, they were laughing and singing together. I don't get it. If someone I loved called me names like that, I'd be in tears and would have a hard time forgiving them. Instead they sing Spice Girls "Wannabe" and laugh hysterically as they forget the lyrics. I don't get it. I wish that I did.

The Sister's Secret by Wanda Brunstetter is the first book in the Holmes County series about the Amish Hostettler family. Grace Hostettler is ready to marry Cleon Schrock after returning from her running around years (rumschpringe). But Grace has a secret that may be exposed by a reporter she knew during that time who is digging up stories on the Amish of Holmes County. Is he connected to the attacks on the Hostettler home and will Cleon be able to forgive Grace for the sins she committed before they met? I was completely surprised by this book. I was expecting a quiet family drama along the lines of Beverly Lewis' Amish books, and the slow start to this book led me further in that belief. But as pieces of Grace's life started to crash around her, the suspense ratcheted up very quickly. As the drama heightens, the pages flew by, until with only twenty or so pages to go, I was thinking No, it can't be over yet, but what about? and what about? The dialogue is a bit clunky in spots which makes for slower reading, but midway through the book I stopped noticing it and paid attention instead to the powerful plot. Grace's father and Cleon struggle so deeply with Grace's past, it's painful to read. Although Grace is more of a passive character in the story rather that a strong female lead taking action, that is to be expected of a young Amish woman, especially one who feels the deep shame she does. Grace took action once in her life and spent the next four years regretting it. And Amish passiveness is almost a character itself in the story: Grace's father's refusal to retaliate for the attacks, Cleon's response to Grace, etc. Ruth and Martha, Grace's sisters, each have their own story to tell (as I'm sure Brunstetter will in the sequels), and they are different, interesting characters. This story has many themes: forgiveness, how our actions impact others, turning the other cheek, temptation of the English world. This is the first book by Brunstetter I've read, but I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next in the series.

It was a good day, but a long day. It's going to be hard to go back to work tomorrow.