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Review: Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer

Paradise Valley, Dale Cramer, 978-0-7642-0838-6

Would you educate your children according to your religion even if it meant jail?  What if it meant that the children would be taken away from you?  That was the quandary facing Caleb Bender and other Amish fathers. 

Inspired by actual events, this novel follows Caleb Bender?s family as they move from Ohio to Mexico to escape persecution in the early 1920?s.  Caleb?s goal is to save his children from the world (and his sick wife from the moist air of Ohio), but he cannot imagine how the move will impact his three girls.  Rachel has just lost her heart to young Jake Weaver, a worthy man if there ever was one, but she has to leave him behind.  Miriam, old enough to be courting, has not yet found anyone she can love.  Emma, newly-wed, flees upcoming scandal. 

In their new country, the girls support each other in their daily lives, finding unexpected strengths.  Caleb, faced with threats to his family, is forced to confront his deepest beliefs.  Author Dale Cramer skillfully weaves each character?s struggles into a single rich and satisfying novel.

Amish stories are often similar, centered around a romantic interest between an Amish person and an outsider and the conflict that results from two worlds colliding.  Although the Bender girls do fall in love, this novel is less about romance than about the essence of their religion.  Each member of the family participates in this vision in his or her own way.  The characters all have faults, to be sure, but are good people?almost too good?dealing with the consequences of evil as well as they can.  Domingo?s words to Caleb Bender apply, in some sense, to the entire family, ?I still think perhaps you are a little bit foolish, amigo, but you are surely the most honorable man I have ever met.?

I highly recommend this novel to all adults.  Some scenes and concepts are not suitable for younger people due to their intensity.

Disclosure:  This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


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