I received this book from Bethany House free for my honest review of this book.
An Amish settlement in Ohio has run afoul of a law requiring their children to attend public school. Caleb Bender and his neighbors are arrested for neglect, with the state ordering the children be placed in an institution. Among them are Caleb's teenage daughter, Rachel, and the boy she has her eye on, Jake Weaver. Romance blooms between the two when Rachel helps Jake escape the children's home.
Searching for a place to relocate his family where no such laws apply, Caleb learns there's inexpensive land for sale in Mexico, a place called Paradise Valley. Despite rumors of instability in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the Amish community decides this is their answer. And since it was Caleb's idea, he and his family will be the pioneers. They will send for the others once he's established a foothold and assessed the situation.
Caleb's daughters are thrown into turmoil. Rachel doesn't want to leave Jake. Her sister, Emma, who has been courting Levi Mullet, fears her dreams of marriage will be dashed. Miriam has never had a beau and is acutely aware there will be no prospects in Mexico.
Once there, they meet Domingo, a young man and guide who takes a liking to Miriam, something her father would never approve. While Paradise Valley is everything they'd hoped it would be, it isn't long before the bandits start giving them trouble, threatening to upset the fledgling Amish settlement, even putting their lives in danger. Thankfully no one has been harmed so far, anyway.
Paradise Valley, Book 1 of The Daughters of Caleb Bender by Dale Cramer is based on actual events that took place in Ohio in 1921. The laws in Ohio changed and all children were to be in school and learn certain subjects. Amish children are educated in their colony up until a certain age and then learn at home from there for their trade. Caleb Bender and 4 other men were put in jail for not sending their school age children to school. The children were then taken to a group home until the time their fathers agree to send them to school in the city. Caleb and the other men finally decided for the best of their families they needed to sign the papers and send the children to school until they could find another solution. Caleb then encounters a flier advertising land in Mexico for sale and he looks into it. The whole colony has a meeting with the man selling the land and Caleb decides for the best of his family they will make the trip to Mexico and settle. Once they are there they will send word to the others and they will come.
This is the first book I have read by Dale Cramer and I was completely enthralled with it. It's a wonderful story of faith, love, and hard work. Caleb's Family uproots and makes the journey to a land where they don't know the language and a land in turmoil. Once in Mexico, their faith and ultimately their way of life is questioned. They meet a wonderful man who is a native who helps them get settled and becomes an integral part of their lives. Caleb and his family show him about living honorably. This book was hard to put down. Once I started it, it grabbed me and held on until the end. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. The characters are rich and relateable, their struggles and successes you are able to feel to as the reader and you find yourself completely into the story. I highly recommend this book for anyone who like Amish fiction it definitely won't disappoint.