About this book: (from the publisher) When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. Soon after the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won’t start.
Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.
In the weeks that follow, Leora, Moses, and the community will be tested as never before, requiring them to make decisions they never thought possible. Whom will they help and whom will they turn away? When the community receives news of a new threat, everyone must decide how far they’re willing to go to protect their beliefs and way of life.
About the author: Jolina Petersheim is the bestselling author of The Midwife and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. Her writing has been featured in venues as varied as radio programs, nonfiction books, and numerous online and print publications such as Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, and Today’s Christian Woman. Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live on a solar-powered farm in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with their young daughters. Follow Jolina and her blog at jolinapetersheim.com.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG
[Tweet “The latest genre-defying novel from gifted writer @Jolina_Joy @Crazy4Fiction”]
Reflection: Jolina Petersheim remains true to form in crafting yet another genre-defying work — by far the most unusual novel I’ve read this year. The Alliance, like her previous two, The Outcast and The Midwife, is a novel impossible to tuck into any one, tidy category. In it, she brings together two disparate genres. I’d call it dystopian first and foremost, but because it’s set in a Mennonite community, some might want to shelve it as so-called Amish Fiction. It also contains a bit of mystery, romance, and suspense. Jolina’s publisher is content to officially class it as: Fiction/General — so maybe we’re meant to leave it at that.
The first thing that struck me — aside from its startling, attention-grabbing opening scene — was the plethora of marvelously complex characters arrayed in a tangle of complicated relationships. This, and her lovely prose, is a Jolina Petersheim trademark. Her giftedness floors me. She possesses an unusually astute understanding of the human psyche, which she then pushes out onto the page. She’s also capable of inserting twists you won’t see coming. At least, I didn’t. 🙂
So, I do have to admit that dystopian is not my thing. In fact, except for The Hunger Games (which I read before allowing my kids to), I believe this to be the only dystopian novel I’ve read as an adult. I’m not particularly drawn to the grim circumstances that necessitate the plot. From a character standpoint, it did get me thinking about how I might act and react in a survival situation like this one, which is not a bad thing. Jolina does soften the story’s harsher elements, however, by including a gently unfolding romance, allowing love to grow out of the crush of conflict. And despite their unique circumstances, the two protagonists are relate-able in an Everyman way. Indeed, from the moment Moses ended up on Leora’s table (yes, you read that correctly — but I’m giving nothing away), I was drawn to him as surely as Leora was.
While it’s not a reflection of the story itself, I do wish the cover did more to hint at its heart — of the relationships and the conflict and the love. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the intended audience (since I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction), but this cover would not have persuaded me. I’d have appreciated instead a glimpse of Lenora’s strength, Moses’ courage — a focus more on the people than the place.
But here’s something I did not expect: this story offers a keen insight into the refugee experience, and as this continues to be the greatest humanitarian crisis of our day, The Alliance makes a very relevant read. I hope to be at the head of the line to obtain my copy of book two, so that I may learn how Jolina concludes her imaginative saga.
Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: What other novels do you know that don’t fit into a tidy genre-box?