Sunday, July 3, 2011

Love Finds You in Amana Iowa by Melanie Dobson

Love Finds You in Amana Iowa. Melanie Dobson. Summerside Press. June 2011. 320 pages. ISBN #: 9781609361358.

Friedrich Vinzenz is a construction worker in the new Kolinie of Amana, Iowa. It’s 1863; and while Friedrich’s fiancĂ©, Amalie, is traveling from the East to Iowa, the North and South are battling over slavery. They belong to the Inspirationist religious sect that prays for peace but refuses to fight; instead upon notice of conscription, their Elders pay for another to be a substitute in their place within the Union Army. During the journey, Friedrich meets Joseph, a slave whose body bears the scars of horrific beatings but whose spirit looms large and free. His story haunts Friedrich to the point that he feels led by God to fight for those still held in inhuman bondage in the South. It’s a huge move, taken after much pondering and knowing his pacifist community will never condone his leaving!

Amalie arrives to find Friedrich gone. For three years, she has been faithful to their upcoming marriage and now she is devastated to find him gone. Friedrich’s best friend, really raised as a brother to him, Matthias is also shattered that his friend has abandoned him without saying goodbye. His anger at Amalie is a problem that others notice, but he buries himself in work and is downright rude to her each time she appears. Finally, he tells her to stay away from him. Given his background, Matthias is having an awful time, filled with unspeakable thoughts he can share with no one.

Devastation visits Amalie, Matthias and Friedrich’s family and the reader is unsure whether any of them will ever know peace again. At a certain point, Matthias realizes he may not be called to fight in the Civil War, where over 600,000 will eventually die, but can play a peaceful and very useful role which the Elders in his community approve. While all of this occurs, love quietly bonds certain couples in a way this author presents with humor, shyness, doubts, fears, and approval that comes with a deep sense of serenity.

Resolution arrives after a secret mission is attempted, and all characters have learned to live with their positive and negative memories of the war’s effect. Love Finds You in Amana Iowa is a lovely story that is both very real and very ideal – a graceful story of struggle and redemption, a potent and charming read!

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