I was drawn to When the Heart Cries because I love reading books about Amish people. Some are done better than others, so I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up too much. I thought this was a wonderfully written book. At the basics, it was mostly done well. The dialogue wasn’t so cheesy or forced (which is, like, one of my biggest pet peeves when reading — ask yourself, “Would anyone really ever say this this way?”), and the story itself was enjoyable. One of the reasons I liked reading the book so much was because I really liked Hannah, the protagonist. Hannah becomes secretly engaged to a Mennonite boy, Paul, despite the fact that her father and the rest of her community expects her to embrace Amish life as others before her have done. When she is attacked on the evening of her engagement, everything changes, and not for the good.
Hannah was a good character. She had faults, and she had doubts, but she was resilient and loving and strong at the same time. I loved that she was questioning her world, and her faith, but not in a crazy rebellious way — there were no tattoos or late-night piercings. Just contemplative thought and some conversations with those in the “English” world. Woodsmall makes Hannah a likable character because she is constantly interacting with others. Clearly that happens in most books, but it was done nicely in When the Heart Cries. Hannah lives in a small, close community, so she is constantly talking to her parents, her siblings, her friend Mary, Paul, Paul’s grandmother, people at the hospital after an accident, and so on. We see her development because we get to see her interacting with others frequently.
If you’re looking for a very religious book, this doesn’t necessarily fall into that category. It definitely has a religious aspect, and a lot of Hannah’s struggles relate to faith, her Amish faith in particular, but it’s not a book where there’s a Bible verse or a moral story on every page. That said, it’s a book all about faith: faith in the “nevertheless” (which you’ll understand when you get to the end of the book) and the possibility of what God has the power and the ability to do in a person’s life.
There were, of course, a few things that I found less than perfect, but you can say the same for any book you read. One of the things that left me going “Hrm…” while I scratched my head was the portrayal of the Amish community in the book. For a community that is based in love and forgiveness, there is a lot of anger in assorted people. While I understand that because it was needed to move the plot forward, I am kind of confused by it because it doesn’t really seem like a truly accurate description of the Amish, especially the way Hannah is treated after she is attacked.
This isn’t a super “literary” read, if you’re a book snob, but it was a pleasant read over the span of a few days for me. Take it on vacation with you, throw it in your bag to read during lunch or when you’re standing in line at the post office. Or tuck it in your nightstand and read before you go to bed. Based on its content, it would be a good read for girl starting as young as middle school and up.
I didn’t realize at first that this was the first book in a trilogy, so when I got to the end of kind of had a “What. The. Heck?” moment before I did a quick Google search and discovered that there are two more (please pretend that you can’t see the byline on the book that says “Sisters of the Quilt: Book One” at the bottom of the book. I swear my copy doesn’t have that!), and they’ve both been published. I’ll admit, I already bought the second one to read on my iPad! (And then, a few days after I first published this review, I bought the entire Sisters of the Quilt Trilogy from a closing Borders!)
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was asked to review this book fairly based on my own opinions and not asked to make a positive review in return for receiving the book, only an honest one.)