Eyes at the Window

( 2 )

Overview

Told from with the often-idealized, but sometimes scarred human community of the Amish, this historical novel is the story of judgment and misplaced responsibility, of attempts of love and forgiveness, and finally of grace despite unspeakable loss.

This historical novel, literary and engaging, examines a close-knit community of Amish pioneers over several decades (right up to the eve of the American Civil War). Employing eight different voices, Miller unpeels the cohesions and ...

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Overview

Told from with the often-idealized, but sometimes scarred human community of the Amish, this historical novel is the story of judgment and misplaced responsibility, of attempts of love and forgiveness, and finally of grace despite unspeakable loss.

This historical novel, literary and engaging, examines a close-knit community of Amish pioneers over several decades (right up to the eve of the American Civil War). Employing eight different voices, Miller unpeels the cohesions and tensions as settlers move west while others stay behind. Beneath the surface but never quite forgotten is the unsolved murder of an Amish baby (based on a true incident). This is a story of judgment and misplaced responsibility, of attempts at love and forgiveness, and finally of grace despite unspeakable loss. It is told lyrically from within this often-idealized but sometimes scarred human community. An unforgettable story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Miller's ambitious, moving debut tells the fascinating saga of Amish settlers in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 19th century, where, in the face of hardship and privation, simply to stay alive was to triumph. Seen through the eyes of eight main characters who alternate chapters, the story centers on how the mysterious death of an infant in 1810 reverberates for the next 50 years. Death hovers over every page: diphtheria, miscarriages, stillbirths, mad dogs, lightning strikes and overwork are part of each character's everyday life ("Father! Father! Look to Mother. She is not right. She feels cold and makes no answer"). In the midst of this unrelenting struggle, love blossoms: men and women marry, have many children and live spiritual lives of order and simplicity. As the characters grow older, the strict rules of their religion begin to erode in the face of modernization, and new problems arise. In less able hands, this epic might drag, but Miller crafts a narrative that seizes the reader's imagination from the beginning and never lets go. Yost, the father of the baby, worries about the future ("I will keep my boys close when they are grown; I will use my land as bait"); Polly, who may have seen the baby's attacker, muses about love ("I wish Jonas had been given more looks... his green eyes have too much of the cat in them"); and Rueben, wrongfully accused of the baby's murder and shunned by his relatives and neighbors for 50 years, longs for his late wife ("My Anna.... I know she watches my valley with me"). There is little variation in voice from character to character, and Miller's biblical cadences may seem strained to some, but this is a rewarding read, a rich portrait of a time and a people. (Oct.) Forecast: The Amish are perpetually of interest, and Miller-who hails from Kalona, Iowa, home to the largest Amish Mennonite settlement west of the Mississippi River-provides an unusually intimate glimpse into their world, making this a prime candidate for handselling. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Spanning 1810-61, Miller's first novel offers a stunning and sensitive portrayal of the Amish men and women who first settled in Pennsylvania, with some families later migrating west to Ohio. Narrated by eight different characters whose lives intersect, the plot centers on the murder of an infant, Marie Hershberger, and its far-reaching effects. Marie's father, Yost, convinces most of the community that his brother, Reuben, is behind his daughter's cruel death. As a result, Reuben is shunned until a startling deathbed confession 50 years later reveals the murderer's true identity. Although long, this compulsively readable book draws us into the characters' joys and struggles in a time when diphtheria threatened to wipe out whole families and hard work and strict rules dominated. Miller's first-rate writing and canny insight into Amish ways and thought render this a better read than Beverly Lewis's Amish series, "The Heritage of Lancaster County" and "Abram's Daughters." Highly recommended for all collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781561484645
  • Publisher: Good Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 513
  • Sales rank: 711,581
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Evie Yoder Miller grew up on a farm in rural Kalona, Iowa. Through the years she has had short stoires, essays, and poems publishe by a variety of small presses. Here Ph.D. is from Ohio University. Currently she teaches writing and fiction writing at the University of Wisconsin-Whitwater.

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Read an Excerpt

Tobias is not my father, but I could not ask for a better replacement. He and Esther remained steadfast, even back in Somerset. When we visited them, or when they came to our place, they never altered our patterns of eating together. According to the teaching of the ban, I should sit by myself at the end of the table, but they made clear, that was not to be. Esther’s eyes blinked rapidly at the notion of separation. I had never seen her show such vexation. Moving to this new wilderness allows us to put these church troubles aside. Of course, there are people here in Ohio who know the history I carry in my knapsack. But for now, I am content to think on a new start. We are here. This is not the Garden of Eden, but it is not a fiery hell either.There has been an awkwardness between Anna and me with this shunning. Since I was excommunicated and she not—no one sought to find fault with her—she is expected, as a member in good standing, to shun me as well. She stays as warm as ever, with one exception; she will not allow any consummation. We lie side by side and she permits my touch, but when I want on top, she half-sobs and says we dare not. “It will not look right. Everyone will know, if we have another baby,” she says.At first I grabbed her tight and forced my way, but there is little pleasure when she is crying. “No, Reuben. I am so sorry. Why does this have to be? Yes, Reuben, I want what we cannot have. No, Reuben.” And then, “No, no, no.” There is no pleasure, only a vicious release. I can grab a tree for that purpose. She says we will love, but stop short. That is when my hatred for Yost consumes me. I would like to see my brother abstain from his wife. Told to abstain. But as Anna says—I have heard it too often—my hatred of Yost changes only me. It affects him not one whit. I do not know if Anna and Esther have talked about our stopping short, but for now I will let things remain as they are. I do not mean to minimize Anna’s strong arms about me; she keeps me steady in the head. But with more time in this new country—by the time we have our own cabin—surely she will change her mind and allow me satisfaction. Surely.Since arriving, I have fulfilled one vow. While walking through the wilderness, I thought often of the children of Israel and of their sojourns. Pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. I thought of the man Ebenezer Zane, of his work and his given name. And so it was that one day, not long after our arrival and before daylight was fully gone, I called Anna to my side and bade her watch as I carried a heavy white stone—it looked to be made of limestone—and placed it atop a large mound overlooking the Trail Creek. I said quietly, “Here I raise my Ebenezer. ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’“Anna said not a word but touched her apron to her eyes. I waited for her to correct me, but for once, I had the words right. © Good Books, Intercourse, PA 17534
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Table of Contents

Part I March 1810-June 1810 3
1 Jonas - March 1810 5
2 Eliza - March 1810 12
3 Polly - March 1810 16
4 Yost - March 1810 26
5 Reuben - March 1810 34
6 Eliza - March 1810 44
7 Jonas - March 1810 49
8 Isaac - March 1810 55
9 Reuben - March 1810 61
10 Polly - March 1810 70
11 Jonas - April 1810 76
12 Yost - April 1810 86
13 Reuben - April 1810 99
14 Eliza - May 1810 108
15 Jonas - May 1810 113
16 Isaac - June 1810 124
Part II April 1811-August 1824 131
1 Jonas - April 1811 133
2 Eliza - December 1811 141
3 Reuben - May 1812 150
4 Polly - December 1812 160
5 Isaac - June 1813 170
6 John M. - August 1813 184
7 Yost - September 1813 190
8 Franey - April 1814 196
9 Polly - December 1815 202
10 Jonas - October 1816 208
11 Eliza - May 1817 220
12 Yost - February 1818 227
13 Reuben - November 1818 236
14 John M. - April 1819 247
15 Franey - July 1820 255
16 Isaac - April 1822 261
17 Eliza - September 1822 268
18 Franey - December 1823 272
19 Yost - August 1824 282
Part III May 1826-May 1844 291
1 Reuben - May 1826 293
2 Polly - August 1828 299
3 Jonas - June 1829 307
4 John M. - May 1830 314
5 Isaac - November 1832 323
6 Franey - January 1834 330
7 Yost - May 1835 338
8 Isaac - March 1837 349
9 Polly - July 1838 356
10 Reuben - April 1841 365
11 Jonas - May 1844 373
Part IV November 1846-June 1859 379
1 Yost - November 1846 381
2 John M. - October 1847 386
3 Polly - May 1848 391
4 Franey - July 1849 403
5 Jonas - December 1851 412
6 Reuben - September 1852 419
7 John M. - June 1853 426
8 Yost - July 1854 435
9 Jonas - April 1855 440
10 Reuben - March 1856 449
11 John M. - May 1858 453
12 Polly - June 1859 466
Part V September 1860-March 1861 471
1 Jonas - September 1860 473
2 Reuben - September 1860 481
3 Polly - September 1860 486
4 Jonas - November 1860 489
5 John M. - November 1860 499
6 Polly - December 1860 504
7 Reuben - March 1861 507
Author's Note 511
Family Charts 512
Glossary 514
About the Author 518
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    I'm amazed that this is a first novel!

    On the Pennsylvania frontier in 1810, Amish pioneers Yost and Eliza Hershberger lose their 7-month-old daughter to murder. Who would slip into their cabin long after midnight, while the young couple and Eliza's visiting sister Polly are out tending the sugar maples, and smother an infant to death? While leaving the two older girls unharmed? The guessing begins when Polly remembers twice seeing eyes at the cabin's window. First before the three adults left the cabin, and again after their discovery of the murdered baby. Although the frightened young woman can tell her brother-in-law almost nothing that might put a name to the person behind those eyes, Yost takes what little she does say and quickly builds it into an assumption: the murderer must be his brother Reuben. A jury of 12 Amish men soon declares Reuben Hershberger guilty of causing little Marie Hershberger's death, and the local bishop pronounces sentence. Reuben must be shunned. Over the next 50 years, Reuben Hershberger steadfastly insists on his innocence. Anna, his beloved wife, stands by him as best she can but even she must obey the church, which for her means sharing his bed without allowing conjugal relations. That deprives them both of the large family that their culture requires - the two children they already have must be their last. They relocate to the Ohio frontier, but Reuben's supposed guilt follows them. Other Amish from their Pennsylvania county also move to Ohio, and that makes any real change in their social isolation impossible. Evie Yoder Miller strutures her novel as a first-person narrative in the separate voices of eight different characters. Chapter by chapter, the narrator changes and so does the reader's perspective. The 50-year mystery that supplies the book's plot isn't its real point, although that's handled well enough. Where EYES AT THE WINDOW really shines is in its fascinatingly detailed portrait of Amish life in the 19th Century and in its sobering, entirely believable portrayal of what the characters' unjust assumptions do, not only to falsely accused Reuben but also to his accusers and the entire community that administers his punishment. A rich and thought-provoking read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2004

    A Great Read!

    I picked this book up after both my cousins read it twice. It didn't disappoint me at all. Being that I had lived in an Old Order Amish sect in Pennnsylvania, I was curious to see how it resembled life as I knew it. Putting the death of an infant and its mystery content aside, it did resemble life as I knew it. The dedication and hard work that is so real in this way of life shined through. As for the passiveness that we women have in that kind of religion, that was portrayed too.

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