Promise to Cherish by Elizabeth Byler Younts ~ Historical Amish Fiction Review

Promise of Sunrise Series, Book 2
Elizabeth Byler Younts
Historical Amish Fiction

It's 1945, and Christine Freeman is a nurse at Hudson River State Hospital, where she works alongside members of a Civilian Public Service unit. Eli is one of the conscies--conscientious objectors to the war--and he is doing his best to become a man of character instead of the immature heart-breaker he used to be back home in his Amish community.

Christine and Eli are friendly, but when an old acquaintance, jack, returns home from the war, Christine's world is violently turned upside down. Eli, heartbroken  to see his friend so hurt, offers her an escape within his Amish community. Despite her misgivings, Christine is fully embraced by Eli's community. She slowly begins to feel valued and loved as she learns the Amish way of life.

Christine finds herself falling for Eli. But soon, the abusive Jack discovers Christine in her Amish hideaway and starts causing trouble for the quiet community. Christine can't see herself becoming Amish, and she knows that if Eli leaves the church to be with her, he will be shunned. Will she escape Jack and possibly have to give up the one thing she holds most dear, or will she follow her heart and promise to cherish the Amish man who loves her?

My Thoughts

I enjoy reading Amish fiction. I really enjoy reading Amish fiction that is unique in presenting an aspect of that lifestyle that I am unfamiliar with. 

Elizabeth Byler Younts first introduced me to what was happening in Amish settlements during World War II in Promise to Return, the first book in the Promise of Sunrise series. I knew that the Amish were conscientious objectors but had no idea about the Civilian Public Service. 

While that first book introduced the Civilian Public Service, Promise to Cherish  takes us inside one of those camps. Through the story of Eli we are allowed to see what it was like to be drafted and then sent to a CPS settlement. It would seem that no one was thrilled to have him there. His fellow Amish (especially his family) are irritated that he is leaving his responsibilities as first-born behind to spend such a long time away from home. The local community where the CPS camp is located resent the conscientious objectors and look at them as cowards. The only place where he finds a small amount of welcome is the Hudson River State Hospital.

At first Eli would rather be anywhere but at the hospital. It is understaffed and lacks some of the basic necessities for its patients. Most of the patients are mentally ill and are left at the hospital by their families. The irony is that in this most dire of places, Eli begins to see his life differently.

While serving at the hospital Eli meets Christine who is a nurse on the ward where he is assigned to work. She has lost two brothers in the war and is rather cold towards Eli. But as often happens in life, the very person she dislikes is the one that winds up being her salvation.

This story has great depth and delves into several subjects that are somewhat uncommon in Amish fiction. There is a date rape that results in an unexpected pregnancy. I found it refreshing to read what felt like true reactions from the Amish community to this situation. There was true conflict and strife but in the end there was also a great amount of faith and trust in God's divine plan.

If you enjoy Historical Fiction, especially surrounding the WWII time-frame, I think you will be intrigued with this fascinating look at a very pivotal time in our country's history. 

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