Promise to Return: A Novelby Elizabeth Byler Younts
When World War II breaks out, Miriam’s fiancé, Henry, is drafted and sent to a conscientious objector camp. But when Henry feels called to fight on the front lines, he goes against the Amish church to follow God’s will—forcing Miriam to choose between the rules of her religion and the leading of her heart.
When World War II breaks/b>
When World War II breaks out, Miriam’s fiancé, Henry, is drafted and sent to a conscientious objector camp. But when Henry feels called to fight on the front lines, he goes against the Amish church to follow God’s will—forcing Miriam to choose between the rules of her religion and the leading of her heart.
When World War II breaks out, Miriam Coblentz’s peaceful Amish world is turned upside down...
It’s 1943, and Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are nearing their wedding day when the unthinkable happens—Henry is drafted. However, since he is a part of the pacifist Amish tradition, Henry is sent to a conscientious objector Civilian Public Service camp. When he leaves for the work camp, his gaping absence turns Miriam’s life upside down. Little does she know it’s only the beginning... When Henry returns home, he brings news that shakes Miriam and their Amish community to the core. Henry believes God has called him to enlist in the army and fight for his country, leaving her to make an important decision: whether to choose loyalty to the peaceful life she’s always known or her love for Henry. Two worlds collide in this unforgettable debut novel, providing a fascinating and rare look into Amish culture during World War II. While Henry is battling enemies across the ocean, Miriam struggles between her devotion to Henry and her love of the Amish way of life. One question is at the bottom of it all: will she follow the rules of her religion or the leading of her heart?
Read an Excerpt
Promise to Return
The scent of cherry pie and warm taffy tickled Miriam Coblentz’s nose. Her hands slipped through the soft taffy she was pulling. She and her partner, Eli Brenneman, were working over the soft, shiny candy ahead of the other teams. All those years of kneading dough, milking cows, and scrubbing the wooden slats on the floor with a brush had made her hands strong. Unfortunately, every other girl in the lineup next to her had the same upbringing, so she had no advantage.
She looked left and right and watched as several of the girls and boys that were partnered up would occasionally steal an innocent kiss as they leaned forward, folding and stretching the taffy. When she turned back to Eli Brenneman, she caught the twinkle in his eyes and she set her jaw.
“Don’t even think about it,” she scolded him playfully.
“You know you want to.” He winked at her.
His tenor voice danced in the air like laundry on a line in a lazy breeze. She wouldn’t let it wrap around her enough to touch her heart, even though she felt weakened in the moment. Her heart skipped a beat when the face of her boyfriend, Henry Mast, broke into her mind. He was far away at a Civilian Public Service camp, serving out his draft with hundreds of other conscientious objectors. She hadn’t seen him in over six months.
“What I want is to win.” She bit her lower lip and smiled at Eli.
She began pulling with more vigor. Next to her stood her best friend and cousin, Ida May. This was the last Singing Ida May would attend before she married Jesse. Since Singings were only for the unmarried in the community, how would it be to attend them without her? Ida May and Miriam had been attending them together since they were sixteen and talking about them for years before. They’d already said goodbye to the others in their tight group of friends and Miriam would be the last one left. She hated being one of the oldest spinster girls in their Amish community. All the other unmarried girls couldn’t be called girls any longer. They were in their late twenties or older and didn’t even attend the Singings. Their chances at marriage were left to the occasional widower or visitor. At least Miriam had a boyfriend, despite their separation.
The taffy toughened in her hands. She and Eli were almost finished. She smiled as she worked faster, wanting to win. Eli’s white-blond hair, dampened with sweat, set off his deep-set blue eyes. He gave her a crooked smile, as though he knew taffy was not the only pull she was feeling that night.
She felt eyes on her. A few people down from Eli stood Sylvia Mast, Henry’s sister. Her gaze narrowed in on Miriam. Miriam inhaled and held her breath for a long moment. Sylvia wanted to be paired with Eli, along with half the other girls, but he always chose Miriam. Should Miriam have told him no? She already had a boyfriend. She and Eli had gone out a few times before Henry asked her to date, but it was years ago and unimportant. Was it wrong of her to enjoy her friendship with Eli, taking him away from all the eligible girls? Apparently, Sylvia thought so. She tensed her jaw before she finally turned away, relieving Miriam.
The sunset through the window fell across the row of arms, making the darkening taffy glisten against the orange hues. Pull. Pull. Pull. Why did she want to push instead? The chatter among the other couples picked up as there were several ready to claim their win. Pull. Pull. Her fingers were fatigued and every pull wearied her joints. Pull. It would be easier to just give up. Her muscles had worked hard enough. Small beads of sweat formed at her forehead around her kapp. Pull. Pull. Her teeth clenched. Pull.
“Miriam.” Eli gestured toward the taffy. “Look.”
Her arms stopped moving as she examined the taffy. It had started out shiny and crystal clear and now it was a hazy, golden color.
“We’re done!” she called out as she and Eli held up their taffy.
Miriam’s sister Fannie, who was hosting the Singing, waddled over, holding her back as her large belly led her through the small crowd of young people still pulling taffy. She declared Miriam and Eli the winners. She patted Miriam on the arm.
“Looks like you and Eli are good together.” She lifted her eyebrows.
“Nah, Fannie, don’t say that.” Miriam pretended to pinch her sister’s arm, giggling at her. Miriam was the youngest and only unmarried sibling in her family. She had grown accustomed to her older brothers and sisters chiding her about getting married. Though they all knew that she and Henry had had to postpone their wedding when he was drafted, she knew they just wanted to see her happy and moving on with her life. It made for a difficult choice. Waiting until Henry’s service was fulfilled to marry made her ungeduldich, impatient, but she was determined to have the life she longed for, and that included Henry.
She looked to see if Eli had heard Fannie, and his wink and nod told her that he had. He squared his wide shoulders, towering over all the boys in the lineup. A movement behind him, through the window, suddenly caught her attention. A slow swagger, an easy footfall, hands in pockets, hat tilted to the side.
She gasped. How was it even possible? His camp in Hagerstown, Maryland was over three hundred miles away from her small Delaware town, Sunrise. He hadn’t written to her about having any leave time.
She pushed the taffy into Eli’s arms and grabbed a towel to wipe her greasy hands, dropping the towel on her way out the door. Her legs couldn’t carry her fast enough. She stepped down the stairs and ran down the small hill, meeting Henry in the drive. He pulled her into the shadow of the house’s awning and into his arms.
She cried. She nestled deep into his chest, her head just below his shoulder as she breathed him in. How was it possible that after all these months, the scent of his bar soap and the slightest bit of cologne was still so familiar? She felt his hat fall and his warm breath and mouth against her ear, her neck, and, finally on her lips. She returned his passionate kiss, letting all the frustrations of waiting and longing fall away.
When they released for a moment she looked into his dark eyes. He had been worth the wait. She brushed her hand through the side of his black hair, shorter than the other Amish boys’. Her heart pounded a little harder, wondering what people would say about his shorn hair. Would he be challenged over it, even given his special circumstances? Her mother’s debilitating cataracts would be to her advantage for once, but her father would be critical of Henry. She peered over his shoulder, seeing the warm yellow glow from the windows of the daudy haus. The grandpa house, across the driveway, was where she lived with her aging parents. She could almost hear their hickory rocking chairs creak against the floorboards. While it was tradition for one of the older siblings to build a small home on their property for their elderly parents, it had never felt like home to Miriam. Fanny’s house had been the home of her youth, she missed living there. She was supposed to live in the daudy haus that Fanny had built for their parents only temporarily, but now, after several years, she’d felt herself aging as she waited for Henry.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” She returned her gaze to Henry, then took his hand and began leading him toward her sister’s house.
“Wait, not yet.” He pulled her back into his arms and peered into her gray eyes.
“Everyone will want to see you, and you haven’t told me how it is that you’re even here,” she pressed. “Not that I’m complaining, but if I’d known, I would’ve made sure to make a lemon meringue pie for you, and cinnamon rolls, and whatever else you would have wanted.”
“Miriam, Miriam.” His silky, deep voice enveloped her, running smoothly over her face and hands, warming them against the cold November air. “Slow down. Let me just see you and have you to myself for a few moments. I’ve missed you.”
At his words, her heart felt as smooth and warm as the taffy inside the house. His soft, easy speech mirrored the quiet and private Henry she had fallen in love with years earlier. While he had all the friends he ever could ask for, he often desired to be with only her. It was what drew her to him from the beginning. He was so different from the loud and rowdy boys that filled their community. His serious and thoughtful ways had always intrigued her.
“I wanted to surprise you.” He traced a finger along her jawline.
She began to shiver from the inside out. The cold and the thrill of Henry’s arrival caused a physical reaction she couldn’t have anticipated. He rubbed his hands against her arms, warming her, then took off his coat to wrap around her.
“Your suspenders. Where are they?” She looked around his back, finding the essential piece of clothing hanging loosely down his backside. “And your shirt—your collar is folded down.” She put her hands on her hips. “Are you trying to be fancy now that you’ve been with all those Mennonites at the camp?”
“The shirts you and my mem sent with me are so worn through, they are not worth wearing unless I’m working. I had to buy a shirt off of one of the boys at the camp.” Henry’s eyes veered from her own, concerning Miriam.
“So it is a Mennonite shirt?”
“No.” He pulled up his suspenders.
Miriam didn’t budge her gaze as she patiently waited for answers. Henry’s shoulders sagged and he sighed.
“It was a boy from Ohio. They don’t wear stand-up collars like us. Don’t be upset. I have some shirts at home and can change as soon as I get there.” He cupped her face, his smile nearly dripping onto her set jaw. She softened at his touch. His love was palpable, and she wanted to carry it as close to her heart as she could.
“How long are you home?”
“Four days.” Henry’s jaw tightened, and his eyes wandered from her face again.
“That’s not too bad.” She pulled his coat around her more tightly, fending off the shudders that still wracked her. “Last time you only had two days.”
The light of the fading sun caught Henry’s eyes just right. Was it the shining of their joy that emerged from his eyes? He sniffed and diverted his face from her. A tremor burned through her stomach and heart.
Something was wrong.
Was the camp extending his two-year service? Had some other girl caught his eye, someone who served their food or cleaned the barracks? Many of them weren’t even Amish.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice was insistent.
“Henry Mast, is that you, my boy?” Miriam’s neighbor Nancy Poole called over as she left Miriam’s front door. Nancy had been the district’s most dedicated driver and all-around helper. Miriam enjoyed her charming and enthusiastic manner, and though the Amish community only needed a driver for an occasional errand into town and emergencies, she still greatly preferred Nancy to any other driver.
“Hello,” Henry said, waving.
“Hello, Miriam. I was just over to see your mother for some tea,” Nancy said, out of breath from the short walk. Her large frame was clothed in a housedress and coat.
“I’m sure Mother enjoyed that.” Miriam’s mother, Rosemary, and Nancy were so different, opposites even, and their friendship consisted mostly of Nancy talking and Rosemary listening.
“All done with the camp life, are you?” Nancy’s eyes bounced between the two.
“I’m just home on leave,” Henry answered. “Are your boys well?” He took Miriam’s hand and pulled her closer to him.
Miriam felt the heat rise in her face. She wasn’t accustomed to any affection expressed in front of others.
“Yes, we hear from them every few weeks. So far, so good,” she sighed and the three were silent for a short spell. “Well, then, enjoy your visit. So glad you’re well and happy. And if there’s ever anything you need, you know where to find me.”
They said their goodbyes and watched her walk away for several long moments.
“She’s a good woman,” Henry commented.
“Yes,” Miriam said quickly so they could return to their earlier conversation. “And now, tell me more about this Ohio clothing and what’s been happening at the camp.”
“We should go inside; we have plenty of time to talk later.”
“I thought you wanted us to be alone?” He was avoiding her question. She knew it.
“Are my sisters here?”
“I should go say hello.” He picked up his hat, returning it to his head, then put an arm around her waist and led her to the house. Miriam noticed the taffy pull was long over, and several of the girls quickly moved away from the windows when they saw them coming.
As they got to the door, she removed his coat.
“Here, put this back on.” She handed him the plain Amish coat, hoping it would hide his Ohio shirt collar. “And keep your hat on.”
“Are you that worried about how I look?”
“No, I’m not. I’m the same Henry I have always been.” She expected to hear irritation in his voice but there was none. He even smiled at her as he put his arms on her shoulders, looking at her intensely. Both made her feel his warmth. “I guess being at the camp has taught me how what we look like on the outside isn’t the most important thing.”
Miriam was taken off guard by his comment but steered it back to her concern over his shirt. He didn’t need any extra negative attention right now.
Usually, Miriam could handle change, but Henry had changed because of the camp. It frightened her. She could only hope it was for the better, though his hair and shirt did concern her. Before he left, the community saw him as one of the most loyal boys in the district and even had hopes of him becoming a preacher. Had that loyalty changed as easily as his appearance?
The vivid memory of her sister Kathryn walking out the door for the last time, breaking their hearts and blemishing the family, dashed through her mind. No, she couldn’t bring any more shame to her family with Henry’s new ways. She couldn’t think of anything worse. Once Henry returned for good he would have to go back to how he used to be, his look, his seriousness, his love for the church. They both had to remain faithful in all ways. Surely, the old Henry she’d fallen in love with was not so severely changed. She hoped.
“For me? Please?” She handed him the coat.
He slipped it on and winked at her. She pulled him close for a kiss. She touched his face, letting her fingertips graze the line of his jaw. She stroked his face several more times, enjoying the feeling of his closeness and the smoothness of his skin. He had been shaving more often at the camp, instead of growing out his beard as the boys usually did when they got baptized. What would people say?
The door opened, silhouetting a large, square-shouldered figure just inside the door frame.
“Eli!” The best friends shook hands vigorously.
“Henry Mast. Welcome back.” Eli returned a wide grin as they released their grip on each other.
Miriam saw a sharpness behind Eli’s eyes, however, and his voice was softly laced with annoyance. It reminded her of their time in school when he congratulated Henry for winning a foot race when it was clear he was angry for losing. Was he upset that Henry was visiting?
“What brings you here? Afraid Miriam might fall for me?”
His words hung heavy in the air. Miriam glared at him, not knowing what to say. Why was he acting this way? They had spent more time together at the Singings, sure, and he’d driven her home on occasion when it was too far for her to walk, but those weren’t dates. She was committed to Henry.
“What, you can’t take a joke?” Eli tipped Henry’s hat off of his head.
Henry’s laugh was the only one that rang genuine as he picked up his hat. He must have believed Eli was joking. She forced hers out like the bleat of a goat, and Eli’s was just as unnatural. She wanted to be mad at Eli for what he’d said, but couldn’t. They’d been friends too long, and he was the only one out of her close group of friends who was at a standstill in his life, just like her. She was waiting for Henry’s return. Though Eli hadn’t made it clear to her what he was waiting on, it seemed clear to everyone else. Miriam ignored his whispers because she enjoyed being around her friend.
They entered the house and continued through the mudroom and into the kitchen, where Henry was greeted with handshakes and hearty welcomes. Henry stiffly hugged his sisters, Sylvia and Rachel. She watched as he explained how long he’d be home.
“Don’t tell Mem and Dat that I’m home—I want to surprise them,” he said. The girls agreed, and he moved on to say hello to the rest of the group of young people.
Miriam watched him, satisfied that he was home. When the kitchen grew uncomfortably warm and a rim of sweat formed around his brow, she felt guilty for asking him to keep his hat and coat on.
“Go ahead. I know it’s hot in here,” she whispered in his ear. He immediately obliged, handing her his hat and coat to put away. She hoped that since the excitement of his sudden appearance had passed and couples were beginning to pair up for their drive home, no one would notice his changed appearance.
“Henry, what are you wearing?” Eli pulled at his own collar. “Miriam’s dat might have something to say about your hair, too. Tell him hello for me. He and I had a nice talk after church today.”
He winked at Miriam before walking away.
“Eli Brenneman.” Miriam spoke between her teeth. He didn’t acknowledge her.
“Don’t let him bother you.” Henry waved a hand. “It’s only Eli.”
He winked at her before joining a conversation with several friends. She took care not to appear angry as she went to put Henry’s things away.
“Hmm, doesn’t really look like the same Henry, does he?” Eli must have followed her into the dark bedroom, where she put Henry’s hat and coat down next to her things. “That camp sure is changing him.”
Miriam looked around. The oil lamp was dimly lit but she didn’t see anyone else in the room. “Hair grows, and he’s been working so hard his shirts were worn through.”
She wanted to tell Eli that it was none of his business, but she knew better. Everyone knew everyone’s business in the community. That was just how it was. Sometimes it was through the expected chatter that help arrived when you needed it; other times it caused hurt feelings and misinformation being relayed from home to home.
Eli didn’t respond, which infuriated Miriam. In defending Henry, she was reminded of how she’d done the same thing before Kathryn finally left. Though this situation was completely different, she reminded herself. Henry had had no choice in joining the Civilian Public Service.
Eli followed Miriam back into the kitchen.
“I had fun with you tonight,” Eli said. “Until Henry came.”
Miriam’s head whipped to see if anyone else had heard him before she glared at him. Surely he was joking. But his wild blue eyes showed no hint of humor. Her heart thudded in her chest. She loved Henry. Eli knew that.
“Are you ready to go home?” Henry walked up to Miriam and Eli, seeming not to notice the tension between them.
“I’m ready.” Miriam ignored Eli as she walked back into the dim room to gather their things. Ida May was also ready to leave, and even though she was angry with Eli, she and her cousin giggled about Henry for a few moments as they put on their capes and bonnets.
“Eli’s as mad as a bull,” Ida May whispered.
Ida May had never brought up Eli’s interest in Miriam to her before. Heat instantly rushed through her. If Ida May noticed Eli’s attentiveness to her, who else did? She’d shrugged it off for so many months, and it angered her to have to deal with it now when all she wanted to do was focus on Henry.
“He’ll just have to stop.” She waved a hand, hoping her best friend wouldn’t notice how infuriated she actually was. “I’m with Henry.”
For the rest of the evening, she and Henry talked and ate pie in the dimly lit empty kitchen of the daudy haus where Miriam lived. Her parents had gone to bed before even realizing Henry was there. It took her a short while to relax after the anxieties of the evening. She had to force herself to stop thinking about Eli’s advances and Henry’s changes. She let herself laugh and enjoy herself more than at any other time since Henry’s draft notice. All she could think about was that she’d get the chance to see him again the following evening. A thrill jumped through her.
In her sleep that night, a haunting scene played over and again in her dreams: Henry and Eli pulling at her heart like taffy, forcing it to toughen. They weren’t working together like the couples at the Singing, but against each other. She felt Eli’s grip tighten. She couldn’t move. It squeezed, weakening her breath. Henry’s hold was soft and gentle. It moved her instead of holding her solidly in one place. Didn’t he want to hold her tighter? Didn’t he want to win?
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Byler Younts is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She was Amish as a child and after her parents left the church she still grew up among her Amish family and continues to speak Pennsylvania Dutch. She lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.
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I absolutely could not put this book down. I became swept away by the characters strengths and struggles. This is truly a heart warming and gut wrenching at times. I was captivated by the very realistic emotions of characters. I have experienced personally the struggles of a spouse going off to war and her interpretation of these events and emotions are spot on. Congratulations Elizabeth this is a wonderful book, I can't wait to read your future novels. I would highly recommend this to any reader.
If you think you don't like Amish fiction, I would urge you to give this one a try before you write the whole genre off. To say it is different from the run of the mill Amish fiction book is an understatement. I never gave a thought to how World War II affected the Amish. I just assumed that since they were conscientious objectors that they would be exempt from service and then just carry on with their lives. In actuality, when an Amish man was drafted he had to go serve in a Civilian Public Service camp. Now if that isn't interesting enough, think about what would happen if an Amish man felt like God was telling him to join the Army. That is the premise of this book. Henry Mast who has always been a caring and upstanding member of the Amish community has the deep conviction that God is requiring him to enlist and serve his country. This decision has very far reaching repercussions. He was just weeks away from marrying Miriam Coblentz when he was drafted. She was content to wait for him when he was at the CPS camp but now that he is going against the beliefs of the Amish community that she loves where does that leave her? What about Henry's parents and siblings? How will they withstand this shame that Henry has brought upon their family? What about when/if Henry returns from his service? How will he fit back in to the community? This is an absolutely fascinating read. When I first began reading it I wasn't sure that I was going to like it at all. I am part of a very proud military family and the whole conscientious objector theme at the beginning of the novel just didn't set well with me. But the farther I got into the story the more I liked it. Elizabeth Younts' writing is captivating. Most likely this is because she is not only from an Amish family but she is an air force officer's wife. Both of those aspects bring an authenticity to the story. For all the Amish fiction lovers out there this is a must read. For all the skeptics this is one to give a try . . . I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm looking forward to book two in the series. It will contain the story of Eli Brenneman from Promise to Return, as he serves in the CPS at a mental asylum. Sounds like another unique book in this genre! I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts reveals a fascinating look into Amish culture. Set in 1943, World War II invades the lives of Henry Mast and Miriam Coblentz, an American Amish couple ready to marry and settle into the predictable lives of their religious community. But Henry is drafted, and as a conscientious objector, he’s sent to serve the war effort in a Civilian Public Service camp. Then Henry turns Miriam’s world upside down—along with their entire Amish community—when he decides to enlist in the army. Soon lines are drawn and loyalties are tested, especially Miriam’s. While Henry battles enemies in Europe, Miriam may face an impossible decision: choosing between her devotion to Henry or her Amish way of life. Younts, who comes from an Amish family, brings a fresh and an authentic voice to this beautifully crafted debut novel. I look forward to more books on this series!
The amish faith and life style comes across as very rigid and controlling with their members. God wasn't commanding them to do. They came across as judgemental of others as well as their own. The book kept moving and I couldn't put it down until I finished it to the tune of reading all night.
"Promise To Cherish" by Elizabeth Byler Younts is just as good as "Promise to Return". I have to be honest and say that this story deals with a subject that I was not aware that was going to be touched upon and at first I was not sure I was going to finish reading the book but I am so glad that I did. I hope I am not giving a spoiler but the subject I am referring to is rape. I just think if I had known the issue was in the story I might not have been caught so unaware, this subject is just too close to home for me to come upon it with no warning, that is why I am including it in this review! I was so upset that this was included in the book and I was talking to another reader and friend and this was her reply to me "Think about it...it happens all the time, in real life. It's something to talk about. Something that should be spoken about. And what happens? How does the character deal with it? How does the character get over it? Can she forgive? Can she forget? Can she get past the hurt and the scars? It is a very sensitive topic. But sadly,it's a real one. Abortion is also a sensitive topic we don't like but it is a real life issue. But it's something a lot of people deal with. Like rape. The author wants a person to be there, in the story. Even slightly, a good author shows you those feelings. Makes you feel them, somewhat. She was frightened. Scared. Anxious. Trying to get away. While this and that was happening. It should be handled sensitively, but realistic. And rape isn't pretty or sugar covered. Get what I mean?" Her comment made me think the book wouldn't have been the same without this happening and the storyline wouldn't have been as great and yes now that I have finished reading the book I can say if it had been left out the ending wouldn't have been as truly remarkable as it was! So I say read this book and know it belongs , even if it makes you cry. Since I added the part about abortion in my discussion with my friend I do need to let you all know that abortion isn't in the book, just part of the conversation. Eli is Amish and has been sent to Hudson River State Hospital to work since he is a conscientious objectors to the war. He is trying to make up for all his not quite so honorable actions back home at Sunrise. Christine is trying to be a good daughter and take care of her parents since her father was injured in World War 1. This book is a book full of heartaches and forgiveness and Love. Yes, this book made me experience many emotions which is what a good story does! This book is really wonderful and the characters are truly human. I absolutely loved the ending and am anxiously awaiting book 3 in this series (The Promise Of Sunrise Series). This book is getting five stars! I was given a copy of the book by the author for my honest review!
Promise to Return is one of the best books I have ever read. I've read books that we more exciting, or maybe a bit more classically written... but no other book has so touched my heart. It has made me see myself and God in a different light.
I read a lot of romantic contemporary fiction, not a lot of historical. But every now and then, I get sucked into a story from a different time and place. And that’s what happened in Promise to Return by Elizabeth Byler Younts. A different time—WWII. And a different place—an Amish community. Add in a love triangle and what’s not to like? I got so hung up on Miriam’s struggle to choose between Eli and Henry, and more importantly what her family and church wanted her to believe versus what Henry thought God was calling him to do by serving his country, that I couldn’t sleep until I finished the book to see if I would get my happy ending. Thank you, Elizabeth for bringing me into the Amish world and letting me experience another person’s life in a way that makes me feel as if I’ve lived it too.
When I agreed to read and review the second novel in this series, I had no idea what to expect… my daughter found – and purchased – the first novel in the series, because we both are pretty fussy about reading a series from beginning to end. So I opened up Promise to Return and began reading… I purposely chose a time that I could spend an hour or so uninterrupted, so I could concentrate enough to delve into this historical Amish novel. What I didn’t expect was to read… and read… until I finally put down the book a little past midnight. I was done! Elizabeth had held my attention, refusing to let go until the very end. And it was good – very good. The story begins with Miriam Coblentz, who was almost married, until her boyfriend was drafted and sent to a Civilian Public Service camp. With their wedding postponed, she’s feeling a bit impatient. I can certainly identify with that! Elizabeth can certainly identify with the impatience – and the commitment – it takes to stand by while the man you love fights for his country. She puts such heart and soul into her novels; I can easily feel the frustration and doubts that her main character exhibits. I want to be careful not to spoil the story, so I won’t speak of what happens with Miriam and Henry; I would suggest you to read the synopsis if you want to know more about the story before you begin reading it.
This terrific book strikes a wonderful balance between authenticity and drama — part sweet, part gritty, part wrenching, and part inspirational. In short, it’s a book that both gripped me while reading and (in a good way) has haunted me since. Most fiction set within a subculture either openly bashes that subculture for the ways it differs from “normal” American life or portrays the subculture in an overly-idyllic way that’s patronizing and therefore equally insulting. It’s refreshing to find a book depicting a subculture — the Amish, in this case — that starkly illuminates how very odd many of their beliefs and customs are in contrast to those of the mainstream but also how utterly human the characters within that setting are. Beyond its authenticity and portrayal of the Amish, however, what’s best about the book is that the author is a gifted storyteller fully exercising her talents to tell an engaging and terrifically-paced tale. It’s very strange to read a book set in such an alien environment but yet feel like these characters are people I’ve known my entire life. Although the situations may be peculiar because of the setting, one can easily recognize the petty jealousies, smoldering rivalries, and the crushing pressure to conform faced not only by the younger characters but also by those who have lived their entire lives within this environment. Kudos, also, to the author for broaching the subject of war and using it to frame this story. Although the clash between the Amish beliefs and the realities of war are sure to cause controversy among readers, it is a testament to the writer’s courage to tackle such a powerful subject and use it as a backdrop for this equally-powerful story.
Most folks know that the Amish are pacifist, but do you know what they were doing during WWII, when men were being drafted? What might have it been like if an Amish man choice to go to war? If you like Christian fiction, historical fiction, a story about those left behind when the men go off to war, or are just curious about the Amish, you should check out her book. It not like any other Amish fiction I've read. The story will grab you from the very beginning. Henry who has been working in one of the camps for conscientious objectors during WWII feels lead by God to go to war. It is a calling that he doesn't fully understand but one that he feels that he must honor. However, the Amish do not allow their men to go to war as it is a violent life and breaks the commandment Thou shalt not murder. His fiance back home is left grappling with her love for him, and her love for the Amish and her life among them. She faces increasing pressure to give him up. Through out the course of the book, both characters will come to terms with the fact that God's will is not always what we would like or plain to discern. An excellent book. Elizabeth Byler Younts has a real talent for capturing the raw emotions, and you will cry repetitively - be over come with joy, and experience depression and heartbreak. It's hard to believe this is her first novel.
This book is awesome If you love Amish fiction I highly recommend it. Very well written. Couldn't put it down.
I enjoyed this book very much and can not wait for the next book to come out.........It's one of the best Amish books I have ever read.......Congrats tot he new Author!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This debut novel is one of the best first novels I have ever read. Elizabeth Byler Younts weaves her historical romance with the rich flavor the Amish community. She reveals the Amish life without lecturing or overloading her work with research. She does it beautifully though the characters she creates and the story world she builds. As a reader, you know these people and understand why they are the way they are. Set in World War II, this romance places the heroine, Miriam Coblentz, in the throes of a difficult decision: to stay with her people or join with her betrothed, Henry Mast, who has made the decision to fight for his country--a choice that violates so many of the Amish beliefs. This is the tale of how the couple comes to this moment and the choices they must makes a result.
Promise to Return Miriam Coblentz can't seem to stop thinking about her intended Henry Mast. Henry has been drafted into the military and sent to a camp for conscientious objectors. The Amish have always been pacifist. When he returns home Miriam is shocked to find out he has decide to leave the camp and join the military and the war. He feels as if God has called him to fight in World War II. Miriam can not turn her back on her family and most importantly the her Amish beliefs. Will she turn her back on Henry the man she loves? I have read many Amish books but this is the first where I get a better look at the Pacifist side during World War II. To me it is apparent men are bred to defend their families and country. Yet I understand the Amish's belief and the pacifist. Women want to nurture and prevent harm coming to anyone. But in times of war we have no choice but to defend. The author has done a wonderful job in depicting the Amish stand of remaining pacifist. I highly recommend this book. Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Howard Publishing/Simon & Schuster for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. This review is my honest opinion.
I have finished a book by new author Elizabeth Byler Younts called Promise to Return. My blog friend Linda from Mocha with Linda told me about this book. It arrived a few weeks ago and with the holidays I've read it off and on. I picked it up and finished it this weekend. It is an excellent book! Miriam and Henry are soon to be married when he is drafted. He first goes to a work camp since he is Amish. When Henry returns later to share with Miriam that he believes he should enlist, Miriam is torn with what to do once he is gone. Since Henry has enlisted he has gone against the church's Ordnung. Should she wait for Henry to return, or should she look for love with another of the Amish boys who is showing interest in her? Miriam faces much confusion as she doesn't want to turn against her parents or Church. I enjoyed this book and the historical aspect of it regarding the Amish during the war. What a wonderful story! I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for more books by this author. The author's website is here. This book was sent to me as an influencer for my honest review.
How can Miriam choose between her church and family and the man she loves? She has always obeyed the rules of the Amish church and never considered abandoning her way of life. All she ever wanted was to be a wife and a mother--Henry's wife and mother of Henry's children. Then World War II ended all those hopes and dreams. First Henry is sent to a Civilian Public Service camp for conscientious objectors. Then he feels God calling him to enlist in the army. How can an Amish man choose to fight? How can the woman he loves reconcile her love for her family and people with her love for a man who chose a different path, a man she believes in with all her heart? Elizabeth Byler Yount's historical romance is well written and moving. The reader will weep and worry and wonder along with the characters in their struggles of faith, loyalty, and love. Fans of historical fiction, Amish fiction, and/or romance will not be disappointed in this new novel. All three elements are included making the novel appealing to all. Thank you, Elizabeth for a wonderful book. Looking forward to Book 2!
Authentic Amish voice from a young woman who is from an Amish background. This is Elizabeth's second novel, her first self-published to much success, with good reason--she's an amazing writer. Tightly woven novel about the consequences of a young man's decision to obey God's voice rather than go by all the Amish rules and the impact on his fiancé, also. Lots of bibliotherapy options here. There are family deaths, injuries some major, separation, isolation and yet knowing that one special love is truly meant to be. And she delivers a tender HEA that will have you begging for her next novel.
This was a different kind of Amish book whereas it took place during WW II. Written by a new author who happened to have grown up Amish, this story gave more insight into areas of Amish rules and culture than I had ever read before. In fact, I wonder if my father, who served in WW II, had even heard of Amish back then. Anyway, the characters, Henry and Miriam, were about to visit the bishop to begin planning their wedding when Henry got drafted. Being Amish and a conscientious objector, he went to a work camp to serve out his time. But even though that was all that was required of him, he told Miriam that God had spoken to him and led him to enlist. Miriam now struggled, for most of the rest of the book, with a decision to follow her Amish faith and culture, or to choose to love and follow Henry. I really enjoyed this book at first. Then it started to drag with what felt like unnecessary information. But soon it picked up again and I wanted to read all night. It is such a different Amish book, but so historically and culturally interesting. I do recommend this book. I received this book through Howard Books, and was not required to give a positive review.
1943 Miriam Coblentz is a young Amish woman who wants nothing more than to be obedient to her church, get married to the love of her life, Henry Mast, and to become a mother. However, shortly before their marriage, Henry is drafted and everything becomes complicated. At first Henry is serving as a conscientious objector at a Civilian Public Service camp, but during this time there he learns how bad the war in Europe really is and he feels God’s call to enlist. Before his training starts, he comes home on leave and tells his family and Miriam that he’s going to fight in the war. His family is hurt and doesn’t want him to stay under their roof anymore. Miriam doesn’t understand why Henry made this decision. His attitude towards God seems to be changing as well—he so easily talks about praying to God and hearing His voice. Miriam is so confused—is she going to wait for Henry’s return? And when he comes back, will he confess to the church he was wrong? He seems to be so sure he was right to enlist and go to war. Her childhood friend, Eli, is trying to win her hand while Henry is away. Although Miriam likes him, she doesn’t love him, but he can offer her the life she has always wanted. Is she going to wait for Henry, or does she give in to her longing to get married in the church; to become a wife and mother, like she has always dreamed? Against her parents’ wishes, Miriam frequently writes to Henry and she anticipates his return letters, but then months go by without a word from him… Is he still alive? Then one day Henry’s mother and sister visit with news from Europe… One of the best books I have read this year! This author knows how to keep the suspense high and keep the reader guessing. Miriam’s struggle was well done and I really felt for her. I have shed several tears while reading this fantastic book, so I advise keeping the tissues handy. I’m going to keep my eye on this author and I’m surely going to read the next book in this series. *Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy through NetGalley.*
This is my first book to read from this author and I enjoyed it very much. I did enjoy the book, at first I kept thinking this is like another author's story that I recently read, but as I read on, I saw that Elizabeth had a totally different story. I loved Henry, and wanted to smack Eli. He was not a good friend to Henry, nor Miriam. I enjoyed the realistic view we had of an Amish family, with Elizabeth's family being Amish, she was able to give us a great view of that. My favorite side story in this book, was Kathryn. It really spoke to me that while she was banned, her mother still kept in touch with her. Overall I loved the book, and enjoyed it very much. Most definitely worthy of a five star review! This book was provided by Howard Books for my honest review. No payment was received for this review.
Promise to Return is about an Amish couple, Henry and Miriam. Henry and Miriam are engaged to be married during World War II. Miriam has to make a choice between following the Amish beliefs and her heart when Henry decides to enlist in the United States Army. Henry promises that he will return to Miriam and they will then marry. What choice will Miriam make? Love or staying on Amish? I have to say this was definitely different from most Amish books I have read. I never even thought of the Amish during the World War II era. I found it really fascinating. The middle of the book was a little slow to me but picked back up in the last quarter. I couldn't believe the ending. I was completely surprised by it. I would recommend this book for lovers of World War II history and Amish fiction. 4 stars.