Beverly Lewis is well known for her long list of Amish novels, which began with The Shunning in 1997 and opened the door for a vast new category in Christian fiction. Lewis continues her legacy with The Orchard, which breaks new ground as it is set during the Vietnam War era and addresses the Amish response to war, as well as one community’s response to the Amish stance.
The Hostetler family, and the Amish community around Lancaster County, Penn., is stunned when youngest son Evan declines to register as a Conscientious Objector (CO) when he receives his draft notice. Instead, Evan decides to serve in the U.S. Army in part to honor his Englischer friend Jack who was killed in Vietnam. Evan leaves behind his twin sister Ellie, who struggles with this decision, faces questions about her future with the family orchard she loves so much, and must come to grips with her feelings for one young man in particular.
Lewis speaks into how Evan’s decision affects the family, with Ellie pondering, “It seemed nearly like a betrayal to her for Evan to have abandoned the teaching of his childhood.” Lewis also describes a community that resorts to violence against the Amish who refuse to fight (and fight back). When Ellie’s friend is attacked, new questions arise and new stories from her grandfather’s past come to light.
Yet Lewis also fills The Orchard with all the things fans love: Amish vernacular throughout—bruder, wunnerbaar-gut, Die Youngie for example—and lots of cooking, courting buggies, and love for the simple things in life such as walks in the orchard and beautiful spring evenings.
Readers will keep turning pages to discover how Ellie’s relationship turns out and the results of Evan’s time in Vietnam. Lewis’ many fans, as well as fans of Amish fiction in general, will find much to love here in the stories of Ellie and Evan. The conclusion is as satisfying as a piece of rhubarb pie eaten on the porch swing on a soft summer night. (Bethany House)