A Simple Charity by Rosalind Lauer

91sDz+NuROLFiction — print. Ballantine Books, 2014. 352 pgs. Review copy.

Twice widowed, Fanny Lapp is busy juggling housework, raising her children and step-children, and assisting the doctor who serves her Amish community with each homebirth. Without a husband and with several small children to care for, the responsibilities for repairing and maintaining her home and barn have fallen to the wayside. The bishop has sent Zed Miller, who recently returned to the community after leaving during his rumspringa, to assist the Lapp family and help turn Fanny’s barn into a birthing center for the Amish community.

Meg Harper is hiding out at her sister’s restaurant near Fanny’s community waiting for the state’s licensing board to decide whether or not to revoke her midwifery license following a tragic birth. Shaken by the death of her patient’s infant, Meg is considering swearing off midwifery and resents her sister for offering her services when an Amish man arrives in town frantically looking for the doctor. Yet Meg finds herself drawn to the beauty of birth once again and becomes determined to work with Fanny to help realize her dream for a comfortable, safe place for Amish women to give birth.

This book is the third in a series. I read the first back in 2013 and skipped the second yet I never felt as though missing the second impacted my enjoyment of the third. In fact, I was quite drawn to the story until I reached the halfway point and set it aside for a bit to finish a different novel for my book club. Upon my return, I struggled to remember exactly why I was so enamored with the tale or felt so connected with the characters.

Meg, in particular, seemed to lack the spark (or angst) she possessed at the beginning of the novel, and I found her sections rather tiresome. (To be perfectly honest, I’m rather over the insertion of non-Amish characters into novels focused on the Amish considering how centrist it is to the Amish faith to avoid contact with outsiders.)

My waning attention could also be attributed to how the focus on midwifery was abandoned for a conventional romance novel. Birth seemed to be the item that would tie the two stories together yet it was quickly forgotten after the idea of a birth center was introduced and agreed upon by the Amish community.

Yet out of all the authors who write Amish novels that I have read, Lauer’s writing is among the strongest out there. Her words convey beauty and emotion, and I never felt as though the dialog was clunky or forced. The novel may have become rather predictable but at least it was rather well-written.

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