Over 20 years ago, the Old Order Amish in Clara’s Pennsylvania community voted unanimously (or so it was recorded) to shun those who had moved just across the border to embrace the Mennonite’s practice of Sunday School for the children. Shortly after that, Clara’s mother died giving birth to her stillborn brother and it was several years before Hiram Kuhn remarried. While Clara has always had a good relationship with her stepmother, lately Rhoda seems to be forcing Clara out the door and into marriage – whether or not Clara feels prepared to deal with her fears regarding the pregnancies that would surely follow.
At a loss for what to do now that she’s no longer allowed to help with chores or her young siblings, Clara spends increasing amounts of time with her two closest friends – her unofficial sweetheart Andrew and her cousin Fannie. But Fannie, who is discouraged from the long struggle with infertility, is one of the shunned Marylanders, and Andrew continues to butt heads with the strict Bishop Yoder and his supporters. When the tension that’s been brewing in the church for 20 years comes to a boil, on which side of the border will Clara fall? No matter what she chooses, one part of her family may be lost to her forever.
Like its predecessor Wonderful Lonesome, the second book in the Amish Turns of Time series – Meek and Mild – shows the damage that can be done to a community when legalistic spiritual leaders are given too much power. Also like its predecessor, Meek and Mild is beautifully written and based on historical accounts of actual Amish communities in the early 1900s. But where Wonderful Lonesome seemed dis-satisfyingly somber to me, Meek and Mild was able to retain a much lighter tone without sacrificing any of the sobering reality.
The history is fascinating, and the author’s note at the end provides more information on some of the characters and situations who were based on real-life people and events. This, to me, is the best sort of fiction because the end isn’t really the end – your interest is now piqued and you are drawn to do more research, learning far more than you expected and carrying a part of the story around with you forever.
Clara and her stories, Andrew and his Model T – these brought elements of fun and laughter amid the heavier issues addressed in the book. Just try to imagine an Amish man trying to teach himself how to drive a cantankerous Model T, and you have an idea of how amusing those scenes will be! And Clara – probably my favorite character in the book. Pure of heart but strong in spirit (once she gets up enough gumption), she giggles freely and loves warmly and serves selflessly. Clara and Andrew together are simply delightful!
Bottom Line: You will experience a full gamut of emotions while reading this book! Not a light read, Meek and Mild addresses the agony of infertility as well as the harsh reality of legalism and abuse of power in the Amish church at the turn of the 20th century. Despite the heaviness of the issues, Olivia Newport’s characters are full of life and there are many opportunities for you to smile as you follow their lives throughout the pages.
Meek and Mild motors into a rating of 4 out of 5 stars!
While this is the second book in a series, it is fine as a stand-alone. They are not connected by characters or plot, only by theme.
(I received a digital copy of the book from Barbour Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for only my honest review.)
Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time to find where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two twenty something children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where day lilies grow as tall as she is.