By Dale Cramer
Published by Bethany House
An Amish settlement in Ohio has run afoul of a law requiring their children to attend public school. Caleb Bender and his neighbors are arrested for neglect, with the state ordering the children be placed in an institution. Among them are Caleb's teenage daughter, Rachel, and the boy she has her eye on, Jake Weaver. Romance blooms between the two when Rachel helps Jake escape the children's home. Searching for a place to relocate his family where no such laws apply, Caleb learns there's inexpensive land for sale in Mexico, a place called Paradise Valley. Despite rumors of instability in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the Amish community decides this is their answer. And since it was Caleb's idea, he and his family will be the pioneers. They will send for the others once he's established a foothold and assessed the situation.
READ THE FIRST CHAPTER HERE
I have loved Levi’s Will, a gripping novel written in a Amish males point of view, so when I heard Dale Cramer was doing a prequel to it, I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy. Dale used real events as a backdrop for his new story that caught my interest and made me realize how much America has changed over the years in our education department. In 1921, five Amish fathers were arrested for neglect of their children. The Bing Act of 1920 stated all children in Holmes County, Ohio needed to go to school or parents would be arrested. The Amish men stayed in jail until the government started heating things up to force their case by taking away their children and putting them in foster care. It’s unthinkable in a day and age when homeschooling is thriving.
So what do these men do to save their way of life? Caleb is willing to check out another place to live. They wanted to look outside the USA because laws were bound to get passed in all 50 states eventually - then an opportunity opened up outside the states. Mexico. It looked great at ten dollars per acre. So, Caleb volunteers his family to be pioneers in a new land. He’ll scout out the terrain and its people, then report back to the Amish community.
Caleb discovers lush farming soil and Mexican people as varied as their languages. Then there are rumors of bandits. They meet Domingo, a young man who takes the Amish family under his wing and guides them through this new world they know nothing about. Paradise Valley could be their new home forever if only the bandits would stop giving them trouble. They were a peace loving people who would not fight for their possessions...even if it meant fighting for one of their daughters. They would trust God in all things, that would not change.
I’ve enjoy Dale’s books, because he is so very passionate about writing and gets to the heart of the matter in his novels. This book is no exception. Dale’s father lived in an Amish community as a boy and left when he got older. So, Dale has family connections that come out in his stories and help him in writing about their customs. This trilogy is inspired by historical events I found interesting. You’ll definitely want to know what happened to Caleb and his family on their journey to make a living in this foreign land. I know I did!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
I’m not a fan of Amish fiction. I know it’s all the rage in Christian Fiction right now, but, enough already.
That said. I do like Dale Cramer which is the reason I agreed to read and review Paradise Valley. Fortunately, the Amish details share space with plenty of 1920 era Mexican details and these add a whole new layer to an interesting story. Plenty of drama -- bandits, forbidden love, snakes, arrests and children taken from loving parents are some of the themes within this well-written novel. I found it fascinating that this story was based on factual events and is part of Cramer’s heritage. Cramer also writes some breathtaking prose interspersed with the "Jah’s" and the prayer kapps. Amish fiction fans should find much to love, and the rest of us can find a good story within these covers, too.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
Each of Dale Cramer's previous novels have enthralled me. Sutter's Cross, Summer of Light, Bad Ground and Levi's Will all sit proudly on my shelves and are testament to Dale's talent as a wordsmith and storyteller. As Amish fiction is rarely on my reading radar, it was Dale's name alone that had me highly anticipating the first book in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series, Paradise Valley, and he did not disappoint. Beautifully rendered and historically detailed, Caleb Bender's journey to Mexico in search of religious freedom for his family is an emotive, adventurous and engrossing read. Dale creates believable and heartfelt characters, brimming with life and emotional nuances that raise the bar in this genre. Caleb, Rachel and Miriam's unique personalities unfold as the pages turn and I can't wait to see where Dale takes them in the following stories. Domingo is another character that enthralled me and the opportunity for conflict and immeasurable grace in his journey are tantalizing. Others may argue with me but in my mind Dale Cramer is the premier writer of Amish fiction today as his appeal extends beyond genre boundaries and his books should be read by anyone who is captivated by brilliant and engaging storytelling.
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
Paradise Valley is book one of The Daughters of Caleb Bender series. The story begins in an Amish community in Ohio, where Amish father’s are arrested for not sending their children to public school, and are only released after paying fines and agreeing to send their children to school. Shortly thereafter, Caleb Bender sees an advertisement for the sale of a great deal of land in Mexico for a fair price. He takes it upon himself and his family to be the first family to go down to check out the area to see if it’s a proper place to start a new Amish community, free from the rules of the government. What he doesn’t realize is the huge danger of bandits and renegades who have to issue with taking what they want from whomever they want. Still, he takes his whole family down, and they begin a new life there.
I really enjoyed this book, and am anxious to see what happens in the books that will follow. The book focused a lot on Caleb’s daughter, Rachel, who leaves behind her first love, Jake, to go with her family. Throughout the book, she loses hope that he will ever join her. It will be interesting to see how the story unfolds in the coming books.
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter