Title: Promise to Return (The Promise of Sunrise #1)
Author: Elizabeth Byler Younts
Genre: Amish Historical Fiction
Publishing Date: Oct 8, 2013
Publisher: Howard Books
Length: 320 Pages
About the Book:
When World War II breaks out, Miriam’s fiancé, Henry, is drafted and sent to a conscientious objector camp. But when Henry feels called to fight on the front lines, he goes against the Amish church to follow God’s will—forcing Miriam to choose between the rules of her religion and the leading of her heart.
It’s 1943 and Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are nearing their wedding day when the unthinkable happens—Henry is drafted. However, since he is a part of the pacifist Amish tradition, Henry is sent to a conscientious objector Civilian Public Service camp. When he leaves for the work camp, his gaping absence turns Miriam’s life upside down. Little does she know that it’s only the beginning…
When Henry returns home, he brings news that shakes Miriam and their Amish community to the core. He tells Miriam he believes God has called him to enlist in the Army and fight for his country, leaving her to make an important decision. She soon must choose between loyalty to the peaceful life she’s always known and her love for Henry and her faith in their shared destiny.
Two worlds collide in this unforgettable debut novel, providing a fascinating and rare look into Amish culture during World War II. While Henry is battling enemies across the ocean, Miriam struggles between devotion to Henry and her love of the Amish way of life. One question is at the bottom of it all: will she follow her religion or her heart?
Remarkable. Poignant. Memorable. Elizabeth Byler Younts has the stunning ability to enrapture readers into worlds of emotional conflict that tugs at your heartstrings like no other. The more you get the know the characters, the more they come to life before your eyes. The more impossible choices they’re met with, the more they feel like your own.
The piece that stuck out the most in this novel, was where the line is drawn between obedience to church authority and following the Lord’s direction. I appreciated that despite the conflict between Henry and Miriam with their church leadership, they both maintained the deepest respect for those in authority over them. It was difficult for them to go against their ordnung’s rules, but they recognized that God’s authority is higher. It wasn’t a decision made in haste, but through prayerful consideration. Henry didn’t want to go to war, but he couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that God was telling him to go for a purpose. He was obedient to God before man. Unfortunately because she was left behind, Miriam is the one who you see suffering from the consequences of Henry’s decision. She lives with the fear and constant threat of being shunned if she doesn’t turn her back on Henry and submit to the church. Knowing that Henry may not even make it back home alive from war, she seems to wrestle even deeper with what to do and who to please.
I appreciated that this wasn’t simply a “good guys vs bad guys” type of novel. Instead it’s about the conflict that arises when people face seemingly impossible decisions. Both sides want to honor and obey the Lord, yet struggle with understanding exactly what that looks like under their circumstances in war. The author did an amazing job of painting this picture with honesty and humility.
I honestly can’t wait to read the next one in this series. It’s sitting right next to me so I’ll be diving into it next. If you like historical and/or Amish fiction I highly recommend this one!
*I was given a copy of this book from the author. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.