by Charlotte Hubbard
2017, Zebra/Kensington, e-book
One might wonder how anybody could tell a deeply felt, exciting story about modern-day Amish. After all, the Amish don’t live as most of us these days. They exist in a slow-paced, insular world, steeped in old-fashioned Christianity, devoid of modern technology that most of us call necessities (such as automobiles). How interesting could that be?
Charlotte Hubbard brilliantly answers that question in A MOTHER’S LOVE. She does this by stripping away the miasma that clogs most of our lives and explores essential shared humanity. (Note I did not say simple people: Hubbard’s characters are as complex as any of us.) This allows their inherent qualities – and flaws – to become the story.
And Hubbard knows how to tell a good story.
It opens with what is surely a universal experience: the mother of Rose Raber, the main character, is dying of cancer. It is told in matter-of-fact style, without false sentimentality, which makes it all the more powerful. The story then proceeds to the main plot conflict when Rose learns that her mother is not her birth mother. She has been adopted.
This is not an experience most of us have had, but it is told in such a way that we identify with the emotions. Shock that the reality is different than what had been believed. Gratitude of having a birth parent who loved enough to place you with a family who loved you. Curiosity about who you “really” are what your birth parents were like.
Other circumstances make it more complicated. In the Amish community having a child out of wedlock is a sign of shame. Add to that the birth mother still lives in the community and married to a leading citizen. Even now, many years later, if this secret becomes known it could destroy reputations and lives.
To reveal more of the plot might risk spoiling it for the reader. Suffice it to say that Rose is faced with an apparently insoluble conflict, which becomes more difficult as the story progresses.
Another element I like is how the author shows living in a close-knit community with old-fashioned ways can be both appealing and claustrophobic.
Hubbard wisely chooses not to over-sentimentalize the story, which makes it all the more powerful. In so doing she has delivered a deeply felt, exciting story about modern-day Amish.