I received an unscheduled book to review from the CFBA, When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall. This sequel to When the Heart Cries opens with Hannah Lapp fleeing from her Old Order Amish community by train; even without having read the previous book, we quickly gather why: she has recently miscarried a child conceived in rape, and her community chose to believe lies and rumors rather than Hannah.
The reader, or at least this one, is quickly swept up into her drama, as Hannah wins us over by the time she’s left huddled in a store’s doorway on a cold winter night in an unfamiliar town in another state. From there, she is a Plain girl swept into a very English world (cell phones and all.)
The most surprising thing for me was the “speed” she is lured into the English lifestyle; I say “speed” because it actually takes place over two years. I gathered she was exposed to it some by her college-student not-so-Plain Mennonite former fiance (who she had a falling out with in the previous book evidently). But for a reader’s who’s expectations were set by Beverly Lewis, I found this aspect of her character a tad under developed.
Particularly, I was extremely surprised they got the girl in scrubs at all, nor should she have had to as it’s technically illegal to require someone to wear pants for a job if they have a religious belief against them, though they get away with it because most who feel this way tend to not apply or otherwise fight it.
But most readers won’t realize the level of apostasy this would indicate for someone with a no-pants conviction. Most will simply see a girl being freed from the chains of legalism (which is a genuine problem in the Old Order from all accounts) rather than someone violating their personal convictions. That said, Hannah is obviously and understandably questioning every aspect of the Ordung and groping to figure out what Hannah actually believes. She’s also under quite a bit of pressure from people around her that don’t understand her conviction. I just felt this area deserved more ink.
My biggest concern is this: after getting me swept up into the story and rooting for Hannah and Paul to be reunited (perhaps I’d have felt differently if I’d been there for his rejection in the first book, I don’t know.), I reach the climax of the story only for–
Only to run into “the end” smack in the middle. If you hate cliff hangers and unresolved endings as much as I do, wait until book three comes out before you start reading this one.
My last note: the use of the Plain people could leave readers disappointed if they’re expecting a Beverly Lewis novel. Woodsmall certainly has talent, but she’s not Beverly Lewis, nor is she trying to be. Her stories are based on her own ideas and experience with the Plain, which evidently is colored by a childhood friendship where the Ordung constantly threatened to tear them apart. That comes through in a more balanced portrayal of the Amish,,their weaknesses as well as strengths. She’s certainly to be commended for establishing her own voice.
If you’re really wanting a Beverly Lewis novel, however, you’re not going to find it in a Cindy Woodsmall novel. As long as the reader understands that coming in, and doesn’t mind getting half or three quarters of a traditional novel plot-wise, When the Morning Comes should be an enjoyable read, and one that may just get you thinking deeper about your own religious traditions. Hannah’s still-quite-plain perceptions of our Englisher churches are classic.