Monday, January 9, 2012

The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Bethany House Publishers)

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.

My Thoughts:
Spoken like a Christian,” he said, and it did not have the ring of a compliment. “But this is Mexico. Here a man must fight or die. In the end, I think Mexico will tell us whose god is right, Cualnezqui.” (p. 37)

The words that are spoken to Miriam on this day prove to be the essence of the trials that lie ahead of the fledgling Amish community set in Paradise Valley, Mexico. Already, the faith of the Amish have been tested by bandits and other hardships. Now other Amish families have chose to join those settled in Paradise Valley, and they must face their own trails, emotional, physical and spiritual. The Bender family, specifically Miriam and Rachel, play a central role in the story, and at times it seems as though life will overwhelm thief heart and their faith entirely.

Dale Cramer draws upon his own family history to tell this story, and their struggles are presented realistically and draw the reader into the early 1920’s and the Amish community. There is a passage that was particularly poignant and one statement that captures the heart of the Amish during a harsh trial: “The Benders treated grief the way they would have treated any insurmountable task – they divided it among themselves and shared it.” (p.218) Throughout the entire story, Cramer explores the richness and depth of the Amish heart and mind as they use their faith to filter through life’s circumstances.

There are many difficulties that are visited upon this young community, and the bandits that roam the territory bring a wildness to the story that is both frightening and emotionally dangerous. My heart broke many times as I followed the Bender family and their community through some emotionally dark places. I found myself wandering many times how my own faith would have weathered such trials. Yet my heart thrills at the constancy of the faith that marks every aspect of life for the Benders, and especially how God allows their faith to reach those who don’t know Him. Isn’t that what all of our lives as believers should do? Point others to the source of the hope and strength that remains no matter the trials that come – both good and bad.

I cannot leave this review without mentioning the tender, tender way Dale Cramer handles the romance that develops in the story. I won’t reveal details for I don’t want to spoil one detail for the reader, but I must say that your heart will be deeply touched and you will be left hungry for more. Dale Cramer creates a story that goes far beyond a mere “Amish tale,” so don’t miss The Daughters of Caleb Bender series! It is a series that will touch your heart and leave you changed.

About the Author:
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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