At long last, the second book in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series has been released. The Captive Heart, Dale Cramer’s latest book, became available from Bethany House Publishers* at the first of 2012, and is sure to excite fans of it’s predecessor, entitled Paradise Valley. Apparently at least one more book will follow in the series as well, as The Captive Heart contains many loose ends, waiting to be tied up in a final story. Based on the events of a true story, The Captive Heart takes place in Mexico, where a new Amish settlement was founded by the Caleb Bender family a year previous to this story’s beginning.
A unique part of this novel is the author’s technique in allowing the reader to watch the story unfold through the eyes of not just one or even two, but several lifelike characters. Although Miriam Bender, a strong, loyal young woman, is the dominant heroine, her sisters, father, and others also add their views, forming a well thought-out (and surprisingly not confusing) novel. The tie that binds each central character together is their need to survive the one blight in their beautiful new home – the bandits led by El Pantera, a brutal, harsh, man, who seemingly has no conscience.
Conflict and hardship abound in Paradise Valley, both within and without. Miriam finds herself haunted by the love of a man forbidden to her, the only man she could ever be happy sharing her life with. At the same, the entire settlement lives in constant fear of being robbed, killed, or worse, by the infamous El Pantera and his bandits. After one of their people is killed, and another kidnapped, members of the fast growing, but strictly nonviolent Amish community, and one loyal, native friend, are forced into unthinkable choices to save their loved ones.
One of the main themes in The Captive Heart is the debate between the Amish way of non-violence, and the desire to protect your loved ones. This unsettled question compels readers to look at their own values. Often in the characters’ situations, they are forced to make choices that truly seem impossible. Similarly, another theme in the novel is that of God’s forgiveness… When a person makes a choice they know is wrong, however unforgivable it may seem, it is imperative to remember that God is love, and that He is ready to forgive us at any time.
The Captive Heart is an adventurous and generally wholesome Amish story. It is packed with drama and excitement, love and value, and characters we can learn with. The conflict is intense, (at times nail-bitingly so!) and both joy and sadness bring life to the novel. A few faults are present, however, largely in certain elements that, while probably necessary to the story plot, could have been explained with fewer details, which would have made a number of scenes significantly less uncomfortable. All in all, however, The Captive Heart was an interesting, adventurous sequel in which readers will learn more about the Bender family they came to know and love from the previous book in the series, Paradise Valley.
***Note: I received this book free of charge for review purposes, courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications. I would like to say thank you very much for sending it to me.