For pure charm of the Amish lifestyle, Beverly Lewis has written an engaging book that delves into the beliefs and traditions of the Plain Folk. The Covenant centers primarily on the two oldest sisters of the Ebersol family as they enter the courting process and decide if they will “kneel for baptism” in the church or pursue a life outside the confines of the Amish traditions.
Sadie, the eldest daughter is caught between her desire to be the dutiful daughter and the pull of an English boy who has stolen her heart. She met him one night during her period of Rumschpringe, a tradition that allows teens to experience the outside world before they make that important life decision. While it is known that the young people sneak out at night to go to nearby towns during this time, they are seldom questioned by their parents; the point apparently being that the son or daughter must be totally free to make their choice.
Leah, the second sister, is not yet old enough for her time of Rumschpringe
or for attending the weekly Singings where the courting process officially begins. She has known, however, since she was ten years old, that when she can attend her first Singing, it is Jonas Mast that she hopes will ask to drive her home. This creates a conflict with her father, Abram, who has decided that their neighbor, Gid Smithy, is the perfect boy to become her husband.
Since both boys are Amish, Leah knows that she will choose within the expectations of her parents and the church, hopefully convincing her father to let her follow her heart; but she worries about the dutifulness of her older sister. Sadie has confided in Leah about her English boy and asked her to keep it secret. Yet Leah worries about the eventual outcome should Sadie stray too far. She wonders if it would be better to break the promise she made not to tell their parents than to let Sadie go down a path she might come to regret.
The story is interesting for anyone who is curious about the Amish people and their ways, but it drags in places where the same incident is presented from too many points of view. That pacing problem creates an imbalance in the story, taking too long for the setup and packing the last few chapters with critical incidents that aren’t fully resolved at the end, making
for a rather abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion.
Because so many things are left in question - will Leah marry Jonas or Gid, what is the secret revolving around Aunt Lizzie, and what will happen with Sadie - this is quite possibly the first book in a series about this family. That is not mentioned on the book’s cover, however, which leaves the reader to wonder if there really is more to come.
Despite those problems, the author delivers the same appeal of her previous books (the "Heritage of Lancaster County" trilogy) that explore the Amish traditions. Her writing is as simple as the people she portrays and that makes them real. She also has a nice touch with description:
“The afternoon could’ve easily been mistaken for early evening, so gray it was outside with drenching rain coming down like Noah’s flood. Not even the hearty fork-tailed martins who resided in the four-sided birdhouse next to the barn attempted to take flight this day. They preened their white torso feathers, waiting not so patiently for the sun to shine again.”
Those words belong to Leah, who narrates the story, and her strong, consistent voice is perhaps the best thing about this book.