Paradise Valley – A book review

Some of you may remember my list of 37, well one of the things on that list, #3  to be exact, was to read some fiction for a change.  I have had the pleasure of reading Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer.
Beverley Lewis is quoted as saying, “If you like Amish fiction, you’ll love this book!”  I could not agree more: Mr. Cramer has done a fantastic job in writing Paradise Valley.
The story is set in the 1920’s and is inspired by actual events.  While the characters and their journey’s are fictional several of the main events are historical.  The story begins in Ohio in the 1920’s when 5 Amish fathers are imprisoned for refusing to send their children to public school.  The fathers are content to sit things out in prison until the situation escalates when the children are removed from their homes and placed in a home for children where their Amish clothes are taken and the boys’ hair is cut.  At this point the main character, Caleb Bender, decides it is better to sign the papers allowing the children to attend the public schools than have them in a home for children: the lesser of two evils.
At this point Caleb is praying for an answer to this problem, when he discovers a pamphlet advertising land for sale in Mexico.  Meanwhile, we are introduced to the other members of the Bender family, and while Mr. Cramer does a fantastic job of drawing us into each of their lives it is Caleb’s daughter Rachel who we get the chance to explore her heart, her hopes and dreams, her faith and her character.
Caleb believes that moving to Mexico and starting over is the answer to their current dilemma but this decision is not without trials and struggles along the way.  Caleb sets out with most of his children (one child has passed away and another stays behind with her husband and children) they number 15 in total.  They leave with the hope that more will follow them to Mexico in the future.
One of the things I love about Amish fiction is that usually there is a strong sense of family.  This is often seen as an Amish trait and yet it is only an Amish trait because it is first a Biblical trait.  Mr. Cramer does a fantastic job of presenting this theme in his book as well.  We understand that this family is deeply connected to one another but it is their faith in God that holds them so tightly together.  At one point in the story Caleb is reflecting proudly on the hard work of his family and we read, “There was nothing worth doing in this world that could not be accomplished with common sense, hard work, and the help of a strong family.”  It is clear that the most treasured thing next to ones relationship with God was their family, “A growing family, after all, was the surest sign of prosperity.”
I don’t want to give away too many details, as it is a great read, there are many wonderful moments in this book where we see the many characters express their faith in God, their love and grace for others, and their willingness to sacrifice their own desires or comfort for one another. Paradise Valley is the first book in a trilogy and I am already looking forward to the next two!  Well done Mr. Cramer!!
Disclosure: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishing, I was under no obligation to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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