Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Epic Amish Journey -- The Captive Heart and Though Mountains Fall

Almost two years ago I read Paradise Valley, the first book in Dale Cramer's The Daughters of Caleb Bender series.  In the past couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of completing that journey with books 2 and 3, The Captive Heart and Though Mountains Fall.

These books form a fictional series, based on actual events, of a handful of Amish families who in the 1920s fled from Ohio to the mountains of Mexico after being punished for refusing to send their children to public schools.  The first book (read my review here) set the stage for the move and told about the Bender family's first year of living in a strange land.  Books 2 and 3 continue their story over the next few years.  Dale Cramer is the great-grandson of one of the leaders of a group of Amish who made a similar trek from Ohio to Mexico. 

These stories are not your typical Amish fiction.  They are not light, easy reads, as some Amish novels are.  They do not show all the loose ends tied up with everyone living "happily ever after."

Cramer tells of a group of American Amish people, strong in their faith, who make very difficult choices in extremely trying situations.  Their beliefs, livelihoods, and lives are tested in a strange, new world, where many of the rules they have known before simply do not apply.  With no church leaders present for most of those years, they find themselves faced with making decisions on their own and are sometimes forced to make choices between traditional beliefs and survival.  Love, loss, forgiveness, and family are put to the test over and over in the hearts of individual characters, as well as the whole community.  There are many joys and high points along the way in the midst of the gritty struggles these families endure.

I would highly recommend this entire series to fellow Amish fiction fans, as well as to anyone interested in reading about different cultures in various historical settings. (This is definitely a series to be read in order.) Five stars to Dale Cramer's The Daughters of Caleb Bender.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of Though Mountains Fall in exchange for my honest review.

The Epic Story of an Amish Community in Peril

Ravaged by disease, preyed upon by ruthless bandits, the Bender family's second year in Mexico has taken a grievous turn. Faced with impossible choices, the expatriate Amish discover, more than ever before, what it means to live by faith and not by sight.

But it's Miriam who must make the hardest choice as her heart takes her on a new and dangerous course. Domingo. "He is gentle," his sister said, "until someone he loves is threatened." Is Miriam that someone?

"Cualnezqui," he often calls her--the Nahuatl word for Beautiful one. The chiseled native has proven himself a man of principle, grace and power, yet is he the pearl of great price for whom Miriam would sacrifice everything, or is he merely a friend? Tormented by conflicting emotions, she's haunted by vivid dreams: Dressed in the coarse cotton pants and shirt of a peasant, she stands on the precipice of a sun-washed ridge searching desperately for Domingo. Domingo the fierce. Domingo the protector. Domingo the forbidden.

"I want you to promise you will always be my sister."

There were tears in Miriam’s eyes as their foreheads touched and Rachel whispered, "No matter what. Always."

Now in its fourth year, the Amish settlement in Mexico is thriving. But as new settlers arrive, sons and daughters marry, babies are born, and crops grow thick, a storm looms on the horizon. And Caleb Bender knows--perhaps better than anyone--that the worst of storms don't come from the western skies.  They come on horseback.

When their very existence is threatened, the Amish turn to the Mexican government for help, only to discover that the rulers of men are fickle and security is an illusion. Tried by fire and riven by war, Caleb and Domingo come to understand that the kingdom of God is not to be found in land or buildings or gold or armies, but in the hearts of peaceful men trying to feed their families.

Watching helplessly as daughters Rachel, Miriam, and Emma are drawn inexorably toward their separate destinies, Caleb is forced to confront the most important decision of his life

Dale Cramer is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed novel Levi's Will, based on the story of Dale's father, a runaway Amishman. Dale's latest series, THE DAUGHTERS OF CALEB BENDER, is based on an Amish colony in the mountains of Mexico where three generations of his family lived in the 1920s. He currently lives in Georgia with his wife of 36 years, two sons and a Bernese Mountain Dog named Rupert. Visit him on his Web site at

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