Monday, October 27, 2014

My take on: An Unseemly Wife

Curiosity got the best of me. Quite often I see rows of Amish fiction in the bookstore. I haven't been tempted to read them before, but the pitch for An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore got my attention.

The book starts with this dedication:

"For my mother, who told me the Plain stories; 
and when she lost her memory, I retold them to her."

I was intrigued. This was also pitched as historical fiction, which I love. I definitely felt transported back to 1867.

Ruth Holtz lives her life by the Order. Amish men and women follow a certain way of life. They are supposed to stay away from the "English." The English don't live their lives according to God. Ruth, her husband, Aaron, and their children live and work hard on a Pennsylvania farm. They live amongst people just like them. But some English men come to the farm and fill Aaron's head full of stories of free land and opportunities for wealth in Idaho. Now, Ruth's life is flipped upside down.

Everything in Pennsylvania is familiar and comfortable. Everything in Idaho is against the Order. Everything in Idaho is frightening. The "English" are also in Idaho. Ruth doesn't want to leave, but fighting her husband's wishes also goes against the Order. She's supposed to be a good wife, but internally Ruth is finding it hard to be a good wife. She's supposed to be obedient and submissive. Ruth's internal struggle is well-played by author E.B. Moore. She's not allowed to truly think for herself. Aaron's wishes trump hers. My modern-day brain didn't like that, but for the times it was very realistic.

The move to Idaho is coming at the wrong time. The family is expanding, four children is soon to become five as the family heads west. The passages of Ruth giving birth were very realistic. She doesn't want her children to see her in that state, it's unbecoming of a woman. Her boys shouldn't see her with a dressing gown lifted up and neither should her young daughter. It frightens Ruth to think that the children could see her in pain and bleeding. Giving birth without help wasn't the plan, but Ruth gives birth to a boy. The rest of the trip is not without strife. The family has to fight through bad weather, rough terrain, disease, and religious prejudice. She has to learn to rely on a new way of life and new friends, including a preacher's wife. I don't want to give too much away, but despite all the problems on the trip Ruth does get an opportunity at a new life. She does find her voice.

E.B. Moore does a good job of being faithful to the past. There are A LOT of flashbacks. I don't mind books that have flashbacks, but in this case it was hard to follow. One sentence Ruth is in the present day, and the next she is months, sometimes years in the past. I had to re-read passages several times before I understood what was going on. Overall, I liked the plot but I wasn't a big fan of the flow of the story.


Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) as part of a blog tour.

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