BRIGHTEST AND BEST
Ella Hilty's deepest desire is to marry Gideon Wittmer and be a mother to his three children. But before the betrothal and ceremony take place, Ella's 1918 Ohio Amish community gets caught in a storm of controversy when English government authorities dictate that Amish children must attend consolidated public schools rather than their one-room-schoolhouse.
English schoolteacher Margaret Simpson had given up thoughts of marriage years ago, and she's content with her peaceful life. But a budding romance and conflict with the neighboring Amish community lead Margaret down a path that she never expected.
Citing freedom of religion, Amish parents stand their ground against progressive English laws that threaten to erode their culture and beliefs beyond recognition, but their stance doesn't come without consequences. Where is the balance between submission to God and submission to a God-ordained government that endangers the church?
Soon Margaret puts her last chance for romance at risk for the only choice her conscience can abide, and all eyes turn to Ella to bring unity to the Amish and understanding to the English.
Not only did Newport engage this reader, she held her captive right to the very end. Seriously compelling. I couldn't put it down. I lost sleep over this book. Both because I stayed up late reading and because I dreamed about the story when I finally did drift off. Applying cucumber slices to my puffy eyes right after I finish writing this review. :-)
If you're not an Amish reader but you love historicals don't be shy, give Brightest and Best a try. Two heroines, one Amish, one English, will keep both kinds of readers happy. And 1918 is an interesting time period for an Amish novel. In many ways, the Amish aren't so very different from their English neighbours. Day to day life is pretty similar between the two groups -- however modern conveniences such as the automobile and the telephone are beginning to create a wider gap between them.
And I found the whole school issue which is at the core of this story utterly fascinating. Newport tells it from various viewpoints, both Amish and English and it pulled at my heartstrings because I know that many Amish communities went through what this one did before they were finally allowed to educate their own children. I was outraged, appalled, devastated...pretty much emotionally spent by the time I reached the end.
This is as much a book about human rights as it is about the Amish at the turn of the century. A reader can make some interesting parallels to similar modern day stories seen in the media the last few years, which really got me thinking. Definitely the kind of book that has plenty of starting points for discussion so it would make an excellent book club choice.
Oh -- and let's not forget the romance. Sweet and yearning, Gideon and Ella's love story is complicated by the growing dissent surrounding them. Their happily ever after seems as illusive as the hoped for Amish schoolhouse. Page-turning to the very last delectable page.
If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Brightest and Best please leave a comment below or email me at kavluvstoreadATyahooDOTca. If you post a comment and add your email address, please use AT and DOT instead of @ and . in the address to protect yourself from spammers. If you enter the draw via email please remember to put the title in the subject line so that it's easy for me to spot your entry. Draw will be held and winner announced on Sunday December 6 2015. Offer open to international readers. Good luck!