An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842
by Jan Drexler
Series: Journey To Pleasant Prairie (Book 1)
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Buy the Book
When love and family conflict, will she listen to her head . . . or her heart?
Hannah Yoder loves her quiet life on the banks of Conestoga Creek. In 1842, this corner of Lancaster County is settled and peaceful — yet problems lurk beneath the placid façade. Hannah strives to be the one person who can bind the threads of her family together in spite of her father’s worries, her mother’s depression, and her sister’s rebellious ways. But her world threatens to unravel.
When two young men seek her hand in marriage — one offering the home she craves and the other promising the adventure of following God’s call west — Hannah must make a choice. Will she stay true to the faith of her family or defy her father and abandon her community?
Death is rarely a welcome visitor. When it enters a family’s home, it can leave destruction and despair in its wake. When diphtheria invades the Yoders’ home, some lives are taken, still others are broken, but no one is left unchanged.
Nine years later, Hannah still feels responsible for bringing death into their house. Her mother Annalise, remains inconsolable and consumed by grief, and seems fated for permanent imprisonment by spiritual darkness. Her father Christian, mindful that their traditional Amish community has fallen victim to outside influences from the progressive ideas of neighboring Mennonites and Quakers, decides that the only way to safeguard his family and preserve their values is to move West. Given Hannah’s closeness to Adam, the Mennonite boy next door, and her sister Liesbet’s capricious and rebellious ways, could it be that Christian’s decision has come too late to keep his family intact?
Jan Drexler has clearly done much research to show her readers what life in 1842 might have been like for an Amish family on the Conestoga. If you enjoy history, you’ll be pleased — Drexler has packed a lot of historical detail into Hannah’s Choice: Amish history, including reasons for their emigration to America, the inclusion of a redemptioner (something I learned!), as well as a look at the Underground Railroad and how views of this particular civil disobedience varied among different Anabaptist sects.
The well-drawn and ever present setting is a character unto itself. So much so that it nearly overshadows the rest of the cast. Along with her vivid setting, Drexler immediately establishes a deeply melancholic tone. Were it not for Hannah’s descriptions and recollections of happier days growing up, the novel might be too heavy.
Thematically, Hannah’s Choice explores loss, faith, and family, as well as the definition of home. Theological discussion touches on the importance of trusting in God’s will and living according to His plan. When faced with the potential risk inherent in journeying west (Indians, wilderness, dangerous travel, etc.), one character suggests fear or asking “What if…?” should not preclude you from stepping out in faith and taking a risk. After all, there are “what ifs” everywhere.
Though I enjoyed the author’s careful attention to setting, tone, and historical detail, I would have liked more character development. So much is stuffed into the novel that perhaps it needed to be longer in order to give adequate attention to its many characters, relationships, and plot lines. Still, while character development and, especially, romantic aspects, suffered somewhat, Hannah’s Choice maintained my interest from beginning to end.
— Dawn Teresa
3.5 of 5 Hearts. An Engaging, Yet Somber View of Amish Life in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, 1842.
Jan Drexel gives the reader a carefully researched, historically rich look at the forces which may have led Amish settlers, including some of her own ancestors, to leave Lancaster County and travel westward to Indiana. Though somber, Hannah’s Choice never loses hope while carrying its message that nothing is more important than faith and family.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Jan Drexler for providing me with a copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”