Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
I left everything I knew behind.
But it was worth it. He was worth it.
No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren't even allowed to see each other. Not until I've proven myself.
If I can find a way to make it work, we'll be NOAH & ROSE
But not everybody believes this is where I belong. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Temptation series, of which Belonging is the second book, is a must read for anyone fascinated by Amish culture. It features Noah and Rose, an Amish boy and an English (aka non-Amish) girl as classic starcrossed lovers.
Belonging starts off shortly after Temptation ended. Rose is so committed to Noah that she has chosen to leave her family and live as an Amish girl in hopes of soon marrying Noah. She struggles with the hard-working lifestyle of the Amish, the strained relationship with her father and brothers, and especially the very strict, old-fashioned church rules on gender and romance.
This is one of those books where my opinion of the story is affected by my age. Most of the times I can channel my inner 16 year old self and read a book through that lens. But sometimes, my 30 year old (okay, 31 year old) self sneaks through.
Rose is a stereotypical teenager. Everything is life or death. Her first love is so incredible that she's willing to turn her world upside down and is convinced that she could not go on without him. Sure, there are some cases where that may be true, but almost everyone has an all-consuming romance as a teenager, most of which wither away and they go on to find something better. So it's hard for me to listen to Rose blather on about how Noah is worth putting up with all the hardships of the Amish church because she couldn't bear to give him up.
That brings me to another point - the church. Rose shows a great immaturity by choosing to become part of a religion simply because of a boy. At no point does Rose evince any belief in the faith. It's all a means to an end. I find that very shallow and short-sighted. I don't think anyone should join any church merely because of another person. Especially not one that literally controls every aspect of your life and represents a 180* departure from your previous world like the Amish church. If Rose was older - even just a few years - I think she may have had more perspective.
Despite my reservations about Rose's maturity and decision-making, Belonging is a very compelling read. As someone who loves Amish culture, I salivated over every page. There is so much information about the daily life of the Amish people. Ms. Hopkins lives surrounded by Amish neighbors, so I assume she knows of what she writes. Everything is covered - daily chores, rules, church structure, what church is like, weddings, fun, family, courtships. That sounds boring listed out, but it give you an inside view into another world. Ms. Hopkins also does a good job of humanizing the Amish. There are good people and bad people, gossips and loyal friends.
The novel is told from the perspectives of Rose, Noah and Rose's brother Sam. I loved reading Noah's perspective. He's in a happy place, because Rose chose to fit herself into his life freeing him from making any hard decisions about his future. His earnest faith in Rose is endearing, amusing, and pitiable as he fails to understand the implications of her conversion, both upon Rose and her family, until everything blows up in his face. I really do like Noah. He's a good, honest person who's fallen hard for Rose. Like Rose, he is prone to jumping to conclusions and making rash decisions, but he is more mature than most non-Amish boys his age.
The story's pace is fairly steady until the last 25% where it speeds up rapidly. There were major plot twists that had me glued to the pages. And the ending - huge cliff-hanger. Actually cliff-hanger may not be the right term, but it's still a big, big development that caused me to have physical pain over the fact that the third book isn't out for another 6 months.
Belonging is a candy novel. With the exception of the awesome Amish setting, it doesn't break any new literary ground. The plot fits many second-book stereotypes (lovers mostly apart, entry of third & fourth wheels). And as much as I love the idea of an English person living with the Amish, I think Rose is out of her mind and childish. That being said, I had such a good time reading Belonging. Rose and Noah have a sweet, passionate romance. The world of the Amish is fascinating. And Ms. Hopkins knows just how to plot her stories to suck the reader in. A definite recommended read.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
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About Karen Ann Hopkins
A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.
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