Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book note: The Sisters of Holmes County series, by Wanda E. Brunstetter

So, recently a friend handed me the first two books in the Sisters of Holmes County series. And I read them. I had to get used to some style quirks, especially the use of dialog to explain things, and provide settings, and conduct language lessons. Well, like this (p. 135, A Sister's Secret):

"What is it, husband? You look so uffriehrisch."

"I am agitated, and you had better sit down." He motioned to the chair across from him. "What I have to tell you is going to be quite schauderhaft."

She sank into the chair, her eyes full of question. "You're scaring me. Please tell me what is so shocking."

Well, I'm adaptable, and I got used to the style, etc. I found the Amish setting interesting. And the author was layering mystery upon mystery, danger upon grief, and plot twist upon plot twist, which kept things from getting dull (to say the least). But she didn't solve but some of the mysteries by the end of Book Two. The largest questions are left unanswered: an unidentified murderer is running free, an unidentified vandal is on the loose, there's no telling if the vandal is the same person as the murderer, the world is awash in suspects - and Book Three doesn't come out until July, and I don't know if Book Three will wrap things up or just be another chapter along the way.

So, anyway, if you're inclined to read the series, I might suggest you wait until you have the whole series in hand, because they are, for all intents and purposes, segments of the same book, disguised as separate books. And this for what becomes a murder mystery in book two. Sigh.

Another member of the family picked up the books after I'd put them down. During a break in his reading, after he was well into the books, we looked at each other, each afraid to say what we thought. "Soap opera," we said, finally. We are in total agreement on that. I haven't read any other Brunstetter books, as far as I recall, but these qualify as Amish soap opera. Which is an interesting twist on the genre, I must say.

I am not a fan of much of what gets peddled as "Christian fiction" these days, and in my view these books share some of the weaknesses all too common in the category. But they have interesting characters, and situations, and points of view, and plenty of plot twists and subplots. They aren't milquetoast; the other member of the family is inclined to think, in fact, that Brunstetter goes too far the other way, and lays the calamity on a bit too thick. Which, I guess, is why we both think of the books as soap opera in print (with a moral compass attached).

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