Most of us want to know more about our family heritage—where we are from and who our ancestors are. Our roots define our identity that directs the way we live our lives. Without this knowledge about ourselves, we feel empty and insecure.
Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould's new inspirational novel, The Amish Midwife, is about a search for one's identity and a place to belong. Depicting little-known America’s subculture with a unique outlook, this fiction combines adventure and mystery with a hint of romance.
Lexie Jaeger is a Mennonite nurse-midwife, who, at her adoptive father's deathbed, learns a few secrets about her past. Lexie's father hands her an intricately-carved wooden box with a well-worn letter written in German. Tugged in with the ancient paper are two locks of hair. What is the content of this letter? Will the picture of a mansion on the box be the key that leads her to her birth parent?
With some help from her childhood friend, James, Lexie locates a local German teacher who can translate the encrypted message for her. The letter is written in High German interspersed with an Alemannic dialect, a language spoken by a group of Amish in Indiana. The picture on the box is an actual place called Amielbach, a property in Switzerland. This correspondence belongs to an Abraham who wrote to his runaway daughter, Elsbeth.
Lexie's intense desire to find her biological parents escalates when a family friend calls her about a lay-midwife named Martha who practices in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Charged with negligence after an Amish patient died during childbirth, Martha is in a serious lawsuit and in need of help. Lexie is told that Martha might be blood-related to her.
The story becomes even more gripping when Lexie leaves a small Oregon town to pursue a search in Pennsylvania Dutch country and when she meets face-to-face with Martha, a dismissive and brusque midwife who refuses to give her any information concerning her birth family. The reader will be drawn to witness a tug-of-war between Lexie and Martha. While Lexie assists Martha in prenatal visits and home births, she enlists the help from Martha's two precocious children, Ella and Zed. Lexie also befriends Sean, a handsome obstetrician at a local hospital.
I find the main plot and subplots of this fiction impressive. The readers would not want to put the book down until they know who Lexie's real parents are. Despite Martha's aloofness, they will root for this complex character as she goes through a maze of lawsuit and court procedures. This fiction keeps us guessing who will win the protagonist's heart at the end—James, her best friend, or Sean, a doctor with a bright future.
Another interesting aspect of The Amish Midwife is its genuine portrayal of the Amish and Mennonite’s quiet way of life, their religious beliefs, and practices. Surprisingly, though, this book is not at all predictable. There are humorous moments that you will not expect. For an instance, Lexie experiences "culture shock" when she visits a pregnant mother with a fancy name, "Barbie." Her patient's bathroom is equipped with granite countertops, a pneumatic washing machine, and a refrigerator in the kitchen. Lexie herself consults a GPS every time she makes her rounds and uses a wifi internet in her relentless search for her birth family.
I highly recommend The Amish Midwife for readers who like to broaden their views on different cultures and learn more about an issue of adoption. This book with Amish characters and setting resembles popular Amish series by author Beverly Lewis, but it has a more well-crafted intrigue that is guaranteed to capture your attention.
About the Author
Sukalaya Kenworthy is a senior library assistant and ESL instructor at the Westport Branch. Interested in learning English as a second language? The ESL class meets the first and fourth Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. For more information, e-mail Sukalaya or call 816.701.3488.