A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Bethany House Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. All opinions are my own.
Published by Baker Books on September 8th 2015
Source: Bethany House Bloggers
Genres: Fiction, Amish & Mennonite, Christian, General, Religious
Eva Esch and her sisters are in a predicament. With the passing of their widowed mother, Eva's older brother plans to move his growing family into the Eden Valley farmhouse where they all grew up, leaving little room for his three single sisters. Unless they marry within the year, the only apparent option is for two sisters to go to Indiana to live with an elderly great aunt. Eva hopes to be married, but she isn't sure she wants to give up her sweet shop for the life of a farmer's wife. And she can't see how her prospects would be any better in Indiana.
When younger sister Lily disappears in the night, leaving only a brief note, Eva fears she has been wooed away from the People by an outsider. And when Jed Stutzman, a young Amish buggy maker from Ohio, shows up at Eva's market stand in Lancaster with a photo of a Plain young woman, Eva's world begins to tilt.
The Photograph is a standalone novel written by bestselling author, Beverly Lewis. I really wanted to love this book and truly, there were elements that as a booklover—I adored. I love the idea of someone falling in love based upon notes written in the margins of the book. I love the idea of someone falling hopelessly in love because he truly saw the heart and soul of his beloved. When the thoughts are written in a copy of Little Women, well, how terribly romantic. I wanted to swoon.
Yet, I couldn’t. I felt like this story hopped all over the place and the characters were flat and one-dimensional. Jed and Eva’s storyline had promise and could have made a lovely love story. However, Jed and Eva’s plot is actually a secondary storyline within this book. Even though most of the book is written solely from Eva’s viewpoint.
The entire premise of this book was based on a photograph. This photograph was found, in fact, by Jed—on a train, with a copy of Little Women. Jed feels drawn by the beautiful thoughts that are written in the book and he is determined to find the woman in the portrait.
When he makes it to Eden Valley, he meets the woman he assumes is in the photograph. Only, it’s not. Eva is not the woman in the photo, that would be Lily. Long story short, Jed keeps it a secret that he found the image because he’s afraid Eva will think that he fell for the girl in the photo—her sister. As we all know, nothing good comes from keeping secrets.
So, the main focal point of this story is supposed to be Lily. But…Lily has left Eden Valley to become a “fancy” Englisher. She left under the cover of darkness and made no contact with her family. The one and only letter that was sent bore no return address and she had a friend drop it off in another town so her family couldn’t find her.
Are you confused yet? Because, this is where I have to backtrack. Lies, as I said, we all know they are no good. Eva finds out about the photo and just as Jed feared, she thinks he has fallen for Lily. So, they split up and he returns to his hometown. All the while, both are pining for one another.
One day Jed gets this idea that the only way to win Eva back is to find Lily. He tracks her down and despite the fact that he’s a complete stranger to her—he convinces her to return home to her family.
View Spoiler »Jed initially fell in love with the thoughts written in the margins of Little Women. He thinks that person is Lily. Yet, once he met Eva and got to know her, he was willing to settle. Even though he always felt drawn to “Lily.”
Once he convinces Lily to go home, he finds out that Eva was the person who wrote the notes in the book in the first place. Even so, he didn’t initially know that and he was willing to settle. It felt so contrived. « Hide Spoiler
Had Lily’s part in the story been left out—this would have been a good book. Her story (and this book was supposed to be her story) wasn’t really told. She left her family. She had nothing to do with them. She’s not present for most of the book. We get no real look into why she was so unhappy with her new life that she let a stranger talk her into going home. For that matter, we don’t truly understand why she felt the need to cut off her entire family when she left. Yet, this is supposed to be her story. Her photograph.
This story should have either been Eva’s story or Lily’s. It should not have been both.