Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana, one of the seven villages inhabited by devout Christians who believe in cooperative living, a simple lifestyle, and faithful service to God. Although she's always longed to see the outside world, Johanna believes her future is rooted in the community. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered and she is forced to make difficult choices about a new life and the man she left behind.
Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, and when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, Berta's rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?
Amish fiction is so big it's spawning offshoots. Miller sets her historical in 1877 in the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The Christian inhabitants of Amana's seven villages lived cooperatively and simply by strict rules, and centered their life and work around God. Like the Amish, the Amana also say gut (good) a lot. Miller (The Carousel Painter) creates two heroines who are on the surface opposite numbers, but have more in common than is apparent. Johanna Ilg has lived her young life in Amana, but feels the pull of the outside world, particularly because her brother Wilhelm has left the villages to marry and live in big-city Chicago. Berta Schumacher and her family arrive from Chicago to live a simpler life, and rebellious teenage Berta has trouble adjusting, to put it mildly. Family secrets and misunderstandings drive the plot. Miller creates likable heroines, has done her historical homework, and develops credible tension because her characters are so flawed. The Amana lifestyle is also sufficiently different (starting with the bonnets) that bonnet fiction fans will be pleased by this variation on the theme of simple living and lots of gut food.