Today’s review is on The Brethren by Beverly Lewis.
***THIS REVIEW DOES INCLUDE SPOILERS!!!***
Well, I did it! I completed the Annie’s People series by Beverly Lewis! It only took me about ten years to do so. I felt like this was a good conclusion to the series, although I did feel like things were wrapped up really quickly.
The Brethren picks up several days after the conclusion of The Englisher. Annie has been keeping her promise to her dad to stay away from art for six months, but she has also decided, after the concluding events of the last book, to leave her parents’ house and live with her shunned friend Esther. Meanwhile, Esther’s husband, Zeke, is in prison after turning himself in for the supposed death of his brother Isaac over 16 years ago, as well as trying to figure out why he is always so angry all the time, especially towards his wife and kids. And then there is Ben Martin, who has recently returned to his family’s home in Kentucky after living in Paradise Pennsylvania for several months, however when he returns he can’t help but feel a sort of emptiness, and not just from the fact that he is coming to terms with the facts that he and Annie will never be together. However, he then discovers the truth, he was adopted and his family kept it from him for over 15 years, with this new discovery, he decides to return to Pennsylvania to see if he can find any clues of who he was before he became Ben Martin.
I’ll admit, it’s hard writing a review for the last book in the series without giving away spoilers, so I apologize that there are some, but it would be hard for me to fully express my thoughts without doing so.
First off, Annie and her newfound independence, and her willingness to stand up to her father. But I also liked how the author shows how she struggles with leaving her faith and community, yet knows that she needs to do so in order to pursue her passion for art. Eventually she decides that her art is what her heart longs for most, and when her love, Ben, returns to town she decides to not be baptized into the Amish faith. However, there are some curve balls thrown her way that soon make her question her decision to leave her community, especially when she starts to help Ben uncover who he truly is.
Ben is happy to be reunited with Annie, the girl who he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about ever since he returned to Kentucky. I did like seeing how Ben tries to process the information about his adoption, and then goes searching for answers about who he really is. It was interesting to see how Annie is the one who starts piecing everything together, but yet I found this part to be rushed and wish more time had been spent on it, especially on Annie developing her assumption about who he is and then Ben’s acceptance of that information. Without revealing too much, although this is still pretty revealing, it made sense as to who Ben truly is, and honestly it’s not very surprising. I also liked seeing how he is soon received into the community of his childhood, even though Annie’s father, Preacher Jesse Zook, is not convinced and thinks that Ben is nothing but a charlatan.
Then there is Louisa, I liked the little snippets that we got of her and her adjustment back to life in the “modern world” of Denver, however I felt like not enough time was spent on her, and in some ways I wish that there was a book that explores what happens to her next. There was even a major event that happens to her friend Courtney and that is just quietly swept away and never talked about again…I honestly would’ve liked more closure on what happens to her, on both of them.
And then there is Annie’s father, who comes across as cantankerous and stuck in his ways, but who can blame him, especially since he is a leader in his community. He has to deal with Esther’s claim of salvation, her husband’s Zeke confession of supposedly killing his younger brother Isaac, his daughter’s seemingly close defection from the community for the sake of her art, one of his son’s running a driving business and courting an Englisher, and then there is Ben Martin, who to him is like gum stuck on his shoe. Although he seems to treat Ben unfairly, in some ways it makes sense, especially since he is protective of his daughter, but at the same time there were definitely times when he could have showed more grace to him.
And finally, seeing Esther’s story as she deals with her husband being gone for an extended amount of time gives her an opportunity to fully embrace her new faith without his constant sneers and jabs. And well then, there is Zeke has he comes to terms with the fact that he might not necessarily be responsible for his brother’s death or disappearance, but also facing the hard reality of how he has treated his wife and kids up until this point.
Overall, as I mentioned before this was a satisfying conclusion to the story, although it did seemed rushed. I also wish some care had been given when dealing with the Amish and domestic abuse…”care” is probably the wrong word, rather I wish there had been more discussion about this even though there hadn’t been much. And it all seemed one sided. I’ll be sad to leave this cast of characters behind, but it ends on a high note that readers know that these characters go on to leave peacful and full lives, while still facing hardship along the way. 3.75/5 Stars
Janelle L. C.