Sunday, March 10, 2013

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer - Review of the first book in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series

Five Amish fathers arrested and thrown in jail, brought before a judge and charged with neglecting the welfare of their children and contributing to the delinquency of a minor all because they kept their children home from the consolidated school. The men tried to convince the judge that they were giving the children an education by teaching them the ways of the farm and the ways of Gott, to read, write and figure so what more do they need since they grow up to be farmers and farmers' wives. The men refused to budge and were sentenced to sixty days in the county jail unless and until they each paid a fine of twenty dollars per child, plus expenses, AND submitted a signed statement agreeing to comply with the conditions of the Bing Act by seeing to it that their minor children attend public school five days a week from then on.

Three days later the sheriff made the rounds to the five homes again, this time to pick up all of the school age children and take them to the county children's home, because they had been neglected. They told the children they were going to clean them up, like they were dirty or something. The boys got haircuts and all of the children were given new clothes, now they looked like Englisch children instead of Amish.

When the father's heard about this, they paid their fines and agreed to send the children to public school, they didn't want their children to suffer. Father's and children were all returned to their homes. The children didn't like attending school any more than their Dad's wanted them to go there. No one was happy with the situation.

Caleb Bender found an advertisement for land in Mexico, Paradise Valley. After some research and talking among themselves it was decided that he and his family would move to Paradise Valley so they could raise their children the way they wanted. Once the Bender's were there they would keep in touch and other Amish would follow them.

There were problems and fears in Mexico, rattlesnakes, scorpions and the biggest fear, bandits. After hearing about some of the difficulties, some of the families backed out, but there were also some families from other Amish communities that decided to move to Paradise Valley.

If you think the Amish are hard workers in America, wait until you read about the work they did in Paradise Valley. Not only that, the obstacles and fears they now have, was it worth the move? You will read about the bandits and everything they do to the Benders, but Caleb still sticks to the Amish way, no violence, no guns to deal with them. How does that work out for them?

The Bing Act, the Ohio law that got the men in trouble, stipulates that all children shall attend public school five days a week from the age of six until eighteen with a possible exemption at sixteen, providing they obtain a valid work permit.

From the author's notes in the back of the book:
The author's great-grandfather was the elder statesman of the colony, his grandparents lived in Paradise Valley, and his father was born there. However written records are scant and few firsthand accounts have survived, so the author used the known history and geography of the colony to create a backdrop. But this is a work of fiction. While the historical context of the novel is fairly accurate, the characters and their stories are entirely the author's creation.

This is a very interesting story, one that I think other readers of Amish books will enjoy. I am on to the second book in the series, The Captive Heart and after that I've already got the third one, Though Mountains Fall.

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