Review of The Brethren by Beverly Lewis - Third Book in the Annie's People Series

The Brethren - The third book in the Annie’s People series. The novel is set amongst the Amish in Paradise, Pennsylvania. The author Beverly Lewis portrays mercy and judgement in each circumstance of the Amish life.Throughout the novel each couple deals with the ups and downs of the Amish life these couples include; Esther and Zeke Hochstetler, Annie and her father Jesse Zook, and Annie and Ben, each couple goes through both the judgements and mercies of the Amish community. We will look at their struggles and how they press on while facing these challenges.

Firstly, Esther and Zeke, with Essie (Esther) shunned and “Zeke in his mentally disturbed state” (Nesdoly, Violet. "Book Review." 26 Nov 2006) They are judged by the brethren when Ester becomes pregnant just before Zeke is held in jail after confessing the murder of his brother Isaac 15 years ago.

When Zeke confesses the murder Esther is confronted by two police officers interview regarding the murder. During the interview Essie is asked many questions regarding the life of her husband. Near the end of the interview Esther is asked by the women police officer “Has your husband, in the past or presently, ever abused you or any of your children?” She Paused. She didn’t quite know what that meant. “I’m not sure.” (Lewis, Pg.64.) Esther is showing mercy to her husband by not admitting she is abused by her husband. Later on in the book when Zeke is not accused of Isaac’s Murder he is released to Philhaven, a mental hospital where Essie breaks the news of expecting their fifth child. When Isaac hears the news he is afraid that he will be judged by the Brethren and put under the shun along with Esther. In the end they are both shunned and forced to sit amongst the Englischers.
Secondly, Annie and her father Jesse. Annie has many struggles living up to her father’s expectations. The judgement that Jesse has against Annie is very unforgiving. But in most situations Annie brings it upon herself, there are three situations that stand out. Firstly, Annie is at odds with her strict father, because she is living away from home with her banned friend Esther. This upsets her father because not only is she living with a shunned member of the community but Annie is Jesse’s only daughter, causing some heart ache for him. Secondly, Annie “is torn between her desire to please her parents and her artistic yearnings” (Gardner, April. 2008)

This would upset her father and the brethren because her church district strictly prohibits painting, but that did not stop her from sneaking away to her secret studio. Thirdly, Annie is at a point in her life where most make the decision to make a commitment as a member of the Amish community. Annie is struggling to make this decision. When Englisher, Ben Martin enters her life this decision is made a lot harder she must choose. “Will Annie make peace with her father and remain a plain woman or follow her heart to pursue her beloved art and become a fancy wife of her English beau?” (Nesdoly "Book Review." 26 Nov 2006) Annie and her father make peace and a final decision Annie is able to pursue her art on one condition, she can never paint a portrait of a person as it offends the Amish culture. Both Annie and her father are happy with the choices made. Annie and Ben’s future turned out for the better as well.

Thirdly, Annie and Ben’s struggles with their forbidden love. Ben is brought to Paradise when he sees a painting on the front cover of a magazine. When Annie and Ben meet they instantly fall in love with one another, but for them it’s not that easy. Annie is struggling with the traditional Amish way of life. She “ is a vital young women who doesn’t always understand herself, is impulsive and strong-willed yet hardworking, thoughtful and kind.” Ben on the other hand is the Englisher who is new in town and confused about what his true calling is. Before long Ben learns he was adopted when he was about four or five (Lewis, Pg157) he felt he was always the “fifth wheel on the outside, in the English world” (Ibid). When he arrives in Paradise he feels at home, but when he begins being seen with Annie the Amish community he is not liked by all. Later it turns out that Ben happens to be Isaac, whom Zeke thought he killed as a boy. Ben’s feelings about the Amish culture are not coincidence. Annie and Ben found the true medium both becoming followers on the Lord and on their wedding day “they’d made a secret pact, vowing to live out their days with their eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus” (Ibid. pg 343). Annie and Ben both became part of the Amish community. Despite the problems with the brethren, everyone was happy. The people of Paradise gave mercy to the couple as they began their life together.

In conclusion we can see that the ability of the Amish to forgive and give mercy to others is a theme that plays a big part in the resolution of several of the story threads. What we can all take from this is that we need to slow down, simplify life and focus on family and what really matters. We can’t get caught up in the little things of life but rather enjoy the moments that mean the most. For Annie although she went through rough times throughout the entire series she did not let the little thing get to her but ended up happy and with everything that she could ever imagine.