Amish fiction is a somewhat newer subgenre of Christian fiction for me, one that I’ve been reading for only a few years. Growing up about an hour and a half from Ohio Amish Country and visiting there often, I had some familiarity with the culture, and reading well-researched novels has offered additional insight. I do, however, find Amish historical fiction to be just as fascinating. This series is the first that I’ve ever read about the Amish during the Civil War era, and this third book especially sheds light on the unique impacts on their communities.
In Jan Drexler’s Softly Blows the Bugle, book three of The Amish of Weaver’s Creek, the Civil War has recently ended, and Jonas Weaver returns home. With him is Aaron Zook, a former Confederate soldier who lost his leg in battle and his faith when his mother died years earlier. Two generations removed from his Amish heritage, he is determined to head west to escape all that he’s lost; likewise, Jonas’s sister, Elizabeth Kaufman, struggles under the burden of her own tainted past. When a stranger arrives in town, he may hold the key to helping them both move on.
While this book can be read as a standalone, I would encourage readers to go through the series in order for the most fulfilling experience and to meet all of the main characters in depth. Each story makes more of an emotional impact if readers understand the background. The Weaver’s Creek community, by and large, serves as an example of what the body of Christ is meant to be: welcoming and loving, without compromising its convictions. The kinship is so heartwarming; despite his previous sympathies and being an Englischer, Aaron finds loving care and acceptance, which in turn allows for healing of more than just his physical body. In a similar manner, the Amish response to slavery and segregation plays out through interactions with the former slave named Dulcey. Another interesting aspect of this story is the disagreement between the Weaver’s Creek traditionalists and the more liberal Amish from other districts. In so many ways, these kinds of situations and issues reflect what we are dealing with today, reminding us that everyone has hardships and struggles, and that we are not as different from each other as we may seem.
Redemption and second chances are themes heavily interwoven into Softly Blows the Bugle. Drexler takes her characters through the emotions and doubts of the journey to forgiveness and to surrendering to God, and one of the beautiful facets of it is how God can use other people to draw the hurting to Himself. As Aaron begins to realize, “Grandpop had always told him that the Amish were high and mighty, bragging about their special place in God’s eyes, but Elizabeth didn’t seem to be like that at all. Her whisper…maybe he wasn’t meant to hear it…but her whisper betrayed a brokenness as deep as his own.” With brokenness comes pain and messy situations; sensitive readers may want to be forewarned that there are a few brief scenes of violence and brief discussions about past trauma. In my opinion, they are not graphic and do fit in with the time period and plot. There is one scene that stretched credulity for me, but it didn’t detract from the story overall. I think that Casper Zook says it best: “No man is whole when he is by himself. All of us are broken on the inside until we find our place with God—broken, sore, and weary. Your brokenness is visible, but the solution is the same as it is for any other man. God will make you whole.”
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥
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