This novel is a good historical Christian romance. It is based on actual events. In 1737, a number of Amish families boarded the Charming Nancy, on their way to the New World. Though this book is fiction, Woods used those basic facts and created a story that gives us a good sense of why the families felt they had to leave all they knew in Germany to go to a new land.
Anna is one of those Amish women in this novel. She is the only one in her community who speaks English and agrees to go to help them communicate. Her intention is to return to Germany as soon as she can. But she hadn't counted on meeting Bairn, the ship's carpenter. He has a troubled past. Even though he finds himself attracted to Anna, he wants nothing to do with Anna's God.
This novel deals with various themes. The strength of the people crossing the Atlantic was amazing. The conditions were horrible in the lower areas of the vessel where the passengers remained. Woods paints a graphic picture of the conditions the families had to endure. Greedy captains overloaded the boats with passengers. Illness and death were common. For the ones who survived and had not been able to pay the entire cost of the travel, they were auctioned off upon arriving in America, having to work to pay off their debt. For the Amish, they also experienced persecution for their odd ways. There are also the themes of forgiveness, restoration, and giving of one's self. Anna is willing to sacrifice for the welfare of others, including the man who would take advantage of her.
This is quite a story about families who would endure a great deal for them to be able to worship and live as they pleased. Woods has done a good job of taking us into the experiences of those journeying to new opportunities. She clarifies in her historical note at the end of the book that the conditions were much worse than she portrays in this novel. Only one person dies on this journey while in actuality there were anywhere from scores to half of the people dying en route. In that sense the journey has been made a little easier to take for romance readers.
She has included a list of nautical terms at the beginning of the book which really helps. There is much we learn about the ship and its equipment, thanks to a inquisitive Amish boy. Also included is a list of resources for further study of the Amish and seafaring in the eighteenth century. There is an extensive discussion guide too so this would make a good book for a reading group.
I recommend this book for readers interested in learning more about how and why the Amish came to America in the early eighteenth century. You'll get a good romance too.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the author of several fictional series and nonfiction books about the Amish. She is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She lives in California. You can find out more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.
Revell, 336 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.