Title: The Tempted Soul [An Amish Quilt Novel 3]
Author: Adina Senft
Genre: Religious (Amish), Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Description/Synopsis: Carrie Miller longs for children, but after ten years of marriage, that blessing eludes her. So she fills her days with caring for her home, making artistic gifts and fancy cakes, and caring for her flock of chickens, every one of whom has a name and who under no circumstances will go in the soup pot. Carrie also finds support in the friendship she shares with her two best friends Amelia and Emma, and relishes the weekly afternoons they share working on their quilts.
Carrie and her husband Melvin love each other, and together have survived many lean years. If not for the kindness of their church community, they would have had to miss more than one meal a day. But now, Melvin has found work that finally provides a good living. Carrie hopes that having more to eat will finally allow them to start a family. Yet month after month, they remain childless. So when Carrie overhears two English women talking in the fabric store one day about medical options available to non-Amish women in her situation, she takes it as a sign from God. Melvin and the bishop see it differently, however. Is it really God's will that she pursue this, or is her longing to be a mother tempting her to stray from her Amish beliefs?
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
This book was one of those books that I really picked up on a whim. I don't generally read religious fiction, and I'd certainly never read an Amish novel. I'm not religious. However, I've always liked to learn about new ideas and about different cultures, so when I was given the chance to try something new, I jumped at it... and was pleasantly surprised. The Tempted Soul is a book about Carrie Miller. She's a young, good, Amish woman that's struggled for years to try and get pregnant. Alas, it was not to be, and despite all their struggles and many attempts, Carrie and her husband find themselves childless. This book is really about Carrie's struggles to understand God's plan for her to be childless, and dealing with the views of her Amish community while trying to balance her own need to have children. She doesn't want to give up on the idea, and when presented with news of a life-altering procedure called IVF, her world cascades into an uncertain view of what is morally right and wrong in the pursuit of having children.
This book was fascinating to me. Not being a religious person by any stretch of the word, it was a good experience to see the world from a different viewpoint (Carrie's) and get to try and understand how her religious beliefs altered her perception of the world, and her actions. This wasn't one of those books that actively tried to shove scripture and beliefs at the reader, instead it set it out on display and said "it is what is. this is what she believes, and this is how she struggles to understand it." It was a very open way of explaining the Amish faith and the ideals behind their actions.
It was interesting to see not one, but all of the characters really struggle with this governing set of "laws" of behavior. Before I read this book, it was easy to assume that anyone in such a strict religious setting was going to be fanatical... but what I found instead was a very real group of individuals with faults and individual beliefs that worked every day to try and understand their own religion. Some days they struggled. Hard. Some days their faith was a comfort. It wasn't easy... they were human, and often made mistakes. I think it was good to see a different take on a religious belief I would normally have steered clear of, and it helped to open my eyes to how people of other beliefs may view the world. Carrie was certainly a lot less cynical than I.
As for the romance; it was more of a struggle for me in this book. At the beginning of the story, Carrie is happily married to her husband Melvin--who she loves dearly. Unfortunately, Melvin was often busy (man those Amish work hard! I have to hand it to them... and it's something I wish the rest of society mimicked) and in his place, he sends Joshua to help Carrie out while he's away. Joshua is sort of a relative/friend who's got a bad rap. There are rumors flying about that Joshua had gotten a girl pregnant out of wedlock, and in his day, he'd been known to flirt around with a lot of girls. Despite the rumors, Carrie does her best to not judge Joshua by everyone else's opinions of him... but he doesn't make that easy. He's constantly antagonizing Carrie. He seems to come over all the time, and constantly put himself in her way. He teases her, and offers to do women's chores with her... he even flirts a little. As a non-Amish reader, I was desperately hoping Carrie would break Amish laws and run away with him... because despite the rumors, Joshua seemed to be a really nice guy--just a bit of a bad boy. I also wasn't a huge fan of Melvin. Sure, he was a good guy... He obviously loved Carrie and treated her with respect... until she introduces the idea of IVF and he starts telling her he fears for her soul. Ouch Melvin. Ouch. Not to mention, he's kind of off and away most of the book... so I really couldn't seem to like him.
(I luff you Joshua!)
There are some more twists and turns to this story: Rumors, Adoption, Teen Pregnancy, ETC, but I don't want to spoil too much. The point is, I really loved this book. I'm glad I read it, and I think you should too. Ms. Senft did a spectacular job creating a real sense of depth to her characters and the world they lived in. It was not only a good story, but I learned things... and I can't ask for more than that.