Monday, April 5, 2010

Life in a Religious Commune

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Somewhere to Belong
By Judith Miller

Books about the Amish seem to be the current trend in the Christian market. Although not strictly about the Amish, Somewhere to Belong fits right in. The setting is a strict religious community in Iowa in the nineteenth century. The twist is that it is communal and the legalism overshadows the love. Two girls struggle with their place in this community.

Johanna has been raised in the Amana communities, and loves it. But she is curious about the outside world where her brother has fled, and wants to visit Chicago, just once. Berta was raised in Chicago by her rich parents who have decided to simplify their lives by moving to the Amana communities. She hates it. The two girls are thrown together because Johanna is expected to teach Berta how to behave. As they get to know each other, they begin to share their inner lives. They also discover that each set of parents is hiding something from their daughters.

Although the book is written well, and Miller brings the Amana communities to life, I found that I didn’t care a lot about the girls and what happened to them. The pace is slow, Berta is not only predictable, her rebellion is extreme, and the people they both encounter are harsh and unloving. Even the mystery of the parents’ secrets wasn’t enough to hold my interest. Perhaps an adolescent reader would find it more compelling.

Pros: Good depiction of an alternative lifestyle, with a little mystery to keep the plot moving.

Cons: Slow start with characters that are hard to care about.

To read more about the book and the author click here.


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