RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts


Title: Promise to Return
Author: Elizabeth Byler Younts
Publication Info: Howard Books October 2013
ISBN: 978-1476735016
Genre: Inspirational

Book Promise to Return This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Evelyn Alexie. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book and Inspirational Romance categories.

The summary:

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?

And here is Evelyn's review:

Promise to Return is the story of a young woman, Miriam, whose fiancé Henry decides to go against the pacifist teachings of their Amish community. He enlists in the Army and goes off to war, and she waits for him to come home.

Like Miriam, I spent a lot of this book waiting.

I’ve never read an Amish romance before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And the setting looked promising. Trying to live a peaceful life in the middle of World War II is bound to cause conflict.

The author took care to show the Amish people as human beings, with the usual shortcomings. Living in a small community, where everyone knows your problems, can be a blessing and a curse. And when you think differently from the community, there’s going to be more conflict.

Everyone knew everyone’s business in the community. That was just how it was. Sometimes it was through the expected chatter that help arrived when you needed it; other times it caused hurt feelings and misinformation being relayed from home to home.

The initial conflict starts when Henry tells Miriam that he is going to enlist. They have a brief argument, and then off he goes. The rest of the book is Miriam trying to choose between marrying Henry and staying within her church. That’s a pretty serious dilemma, and I was curious to see how she would change as a result, what led her to make her choice. Hint: reading the book won’t give you that answer. All you’ll see is what she did afterward.

It bothered me that apart from the initial argument, very little went on. The story is told from Miriam’s point of view only, and basically all she does is stay home and wonder what to do. Even at the end of the book, she’s still wondering. She tells Henry:

“I am learning that our paths just aren’t what we expected.”

“What does that mean for us?”

“I don’t know.”

Honestly, by the time you’re 94% of the way through the story, you should have at least a glimmer of an idea.

Also, I had trouble with the writing. Some of the sentences, I had to stop reading to go back and stare at them. They just didn’t work.

“His tenor voice danced in the air like laundry on a line in a lazy breeze.”

Um… what?

“He cupped her face, his smile nearly dripping onto her set jaw.”

No, seriously… what?

“She giggled loudly when his smile was bright with laughter.”

Okay, now I’m starting to think you’re just trying to mess with my head here.

While I appreciated the work that the author put into researching the Amish lifestyle and how the Amish coped with WWII, I don’t think this really works as a romance. I was educated, but not entranced.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Evelyn Alexie says:

    I feel bad at giving this a C, because the writer clearly poured her heart into the book. She really did a good job of making me feel like i was looking at the English-speaking Americans from the P.O.V. of an Amish American. But even so, I could recommend it as a romance.
    Reviewer’s guilt, I haz it.

  2. 2
    Evelyn Alexie says:

    … Even so, I could Not recommend it as a romance.
    Typoes. Argh.

  3. 3
    Rebecca (Another one) says:

    Don’t feel guilty. You did an excellent job of telling us what you liked and what you didn’t. Sometimes I will read books given C’s, because what didn’t work for someone else would work for me.

  4. 4
    denise says:

    I find that writers still get the history wrong when it comes to the Plain People.

Comments are closed.

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