A Love Made New: An Amish Of Birch Creek Novel, by Kathleen Fuller
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I’ll be the first to admit that I did not go into this novel with a great deal of familiarity with Amish romances, and this novel is certainly an Amish romance about one Abigail Shrock. There are some aspects of this novel that clearly show a great deal of attention to the Amish, from the biblical and Germanic names of its characters like Abigail or Asa or Joanna to the use of Amish language in some of the dialogue. That said, there are also some clear aspects that demonstrate a much higher degree of acculturation to the ways of the English, like frequent breaking up (the two main characters both have broken engagements in their past and the way they discuss these painful ruptures is more in lines with contemporary morality than with the elevated sort of moral standards that we expect from the Amish. These characters, in other words, may be Amish, but they’re not saints. So, lacking familiarity with the subgenre of Amish romance to properly judge this particular novel, I will do so from the slightly more familiar context of romance novels in general that I have some familiarity with .
At the core of this novel are four single people with a lot of drama. Abigail Schlock has been dumped by her fiancé because he found himself in love with a skinnier girl. Asa has left an ex-fiancé in Indiana and is trying to follow the promptings of God and finds himself attracted to Abigail but is particularly clumsy at courtship. Irene struggles with feeling single without any chance for marriage, a feeling I know all too well. Sol has a dark history that led him to be put under the bann (similar to the disfellowshipment familiar to many readers) until he made a confession of his alcoholism and general debauchery. These four people and their families, which include a man in the witness protection program wanting to return home to his family (including his daughter Irene) but who has to live a lonely life among the English–what the Amish call those outside their community. The result is a novel that has a lot of bizarre cultural interactions, like Asa and Abigail going to the bank and then to the McDonald’s, Irene’s father participating in a sting to take down the last outstanding member of the gang with whom he dealt drugs, and so on. This is not a historical romance, but rather instead a romance that takes place within a fairly marginal group within contemporary society, where we see God’s grace and the workings of love of several types (although especially romantic love) within imperfect but largely decent people.
I do not know enough about Amish romance, at least at this point, to know whether this book would be appealing to others who are fond of such fiction, although as the author is well-regarded as an author within this subgenre, it likely she is able to write appealing and competent fiction for those who like it. As a romance novel, this works in providing a situation that is both somewhat alien and all too familiar. Taken as a whole, the novel urges its readers to let God direct our hearts in accordance with His will, because these characters, just like some of us in real life, have a tendency to make our romantic lives complicated and to struggle with the intersection between the longings of our heart and the fairly disastrous interactions we can have with those around us in small and gossipy religious communities. Likewise, the characters, like many of the people reading this book and reading this review, struggle to show gracious forgiveness to those who have hurt them and to hold on to faith in the decency of others living lives that are often far too complicated. When even Amish fiction is devoted to the complications and layers of human life and interactions, we must reach the point where we are convinced that contemporary fiction is devoted to life’s complications because the simple life is beyond our grasp no matter where we turn. No happy ending can remove that insight.
 See, for example: