So what do you do when you have three books due, one to edit, a filthy house, and a year’s planning to consider when you remember that you are supposed to review a book. By tomorrow. What?
You spend the evening reading a book, of course.
It’s kind of natural to have one eye on the clock or to be a bit antsy as you rush through each word, hoping to get the gist of the story down enough to do justice to the review. Really.
It’s only natural.
Except that Suzanne Woods Fisher’s The Return won’t let you do it.
Can you call a book a jerk? Who cares. I had stuff to do. I needed to speed read. It wouldn’t let me. Jerk.
Note: this post contains affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, I requested a review copy of this book through the Celebrate Lit program–no strings attached. I chose to share my .02 with you.
So what is my biased review?
This is one stinkin’ awesome book. I knew it would be, and I’ve gotta tell you why I say that.
One thing I just love about Suzanne Fisher is that she creates non-stereotypical characters. Amish men bent on driving out the “savages”? Yes. She went there. How about a dad who lets his boys run wild? Maybe a Mennonite attending Amish services? WHAT?
And in portraying the natives, she did something that is too often unbalanced. She shows us that there are ugly, bitter people in all societies. Yes, natives butchered and scalped “white folks.” White folks massacred natives. And the ugliness happened among the natives long before settlers arrived… and brought the ugliness they hoped to leave behind with them in their hearts.
Fisher shows this and shows it well.
As for specific characters, I loved that I was annoyed with Tessa… and knew she’d become my favorite… girl. Betsy… I really thought I’d learn to dislike her rather than be ambivalent. I didn’t. However, I was a bit irked by the sudden revelation at the end of who she envied and why. It was a bit predictable, cliched, and… much. Perhaps toned down a bit. I don’t know. It’s probably just me.
But of all the characters Clumsy Marty was my favorite. Yes, I love Barin’s occasional lapses into his brogue, and I REALLY didn’t appreciate the denigration of my beloved bagpipes, but aside from little quirks and delights, I really feel like this was Tessa’s tale.
Set in Pennsylvania during the years before the War for Independence, we’re treated to more than the rolling hills of Lancaster County of modern expectations. Fisher takes us up the Monongahela, the Allegheny, into the villages of peaceable tribes. We’re introduced to the “inventor” of the Conestoga wagon and the enormous project such a design would have been.
Best of all, I think only once did a turn of phrase make me pause and wonder if they’d have said that then. Once. And the story distracted me so quickly that frankly, I don’t remember what it was. I looked for things that might be anachronistic. Didn’t find any. I even looked up things I was sure would be correct just in case I was wrong. Fisher has done her research well. I thank her. It’s so easy not to know TO look up something. So, well done. Very well done.
The one thing that stood out to me is that this is supposed to be “historical romance.” But Suzanne Fisher didn’t just write boy meets girl, falls in love, fights, makes up, marries. She wrote about the deep, rich, pain and joy-filled lives of “real” people and then introduced natural elements of those lives. Birth, death, family, tragedy, pride, grief, and love. The romance in this book is a natural response to a life well-lived. It’s the kind of romance I enjoy.
Okay, I had to mark a couple while I was reading. I had to pull half of them out because I can’t load this up with them, but these really stood out to me:
[clickToTweet tweet=”Fear and greed can inspire tyranny in all men. @suzannewfisher #thereturn #amishfiction” quote=”Fear and greed can inspire tyranny in all men.”]
How true is that? I just LOVED it. Then there was this one:
‘You remind me of Catrina’s third husband.’
‘Third husband? How many has she had?’
She narrowed her beady eyes at him. ‘Two.'”
And finally, this gem. Oh, man this is one amazing gem right here:
[clickToTweet tweet=”What virtue does obedience have if it is not examined and then made to be a choice?’ @suzannewfisher” quote=”What virtue does obedience have if it is not examined and then made to be a choice?'”]
If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll likely love this well-researched book. Amish fiction enthusiast? You’ll appreciate your favorite genre over two hundred fifty years ago. If you love rich characters and engaging storylines regardless of the genre, this book is for you.
And even better, if you haven’t read the others–it doesn’t matter. While the previous books will make reading this a richer experience, you do NOT need to.
One of the easiest five stars I’ve ever given. I hope we get more.
And yeah, thanks a lot, Ms. Fisher. First, you drag me away from work to read your awesome book, and then you make me not want to go back to work. Well played… very well played. And I’ll get back to my overdue books now. Ahem. All your fault. Just sayin’.