Inspirational novelist Lewis begins Abram's Daughters, a Lancaster County series about four Amish sisters, in the tradition of her previous novels. It should please her fans, while not offering much in the way of fresh material. It's 1946 in Gobbler's Knob, Pa., and Sadie Ebersol and her sister, Leah, are exploring the joys of "rumschpringe" — the period of relaxed rules and running around that Amish teens enjoy prior to their baptism into the church. Tomboy Leah's first love is Jonas Mast, but her father Abram has determined she'll marry Gideon Peachey, whose father's farm adjoins the Ebersols'. Her beautiful sister Sadie's defiance crosses the boundaries when she becomes involved with Englischer Derek Schwartz. Heartache is inevitable. The dialect (perty, redd, Dat, ach, wonderful-gut, jah) is as dense as sugar cream pie, as are the italicized terms. There are further challenges for the reader: multiple points of view and cumbersome Amish definitions make the novel a bumpy read for the uninitiated. The characters are flat and unchanging, and the plot functions mostly as a setup for the series. There are factual errors, as when Ebersol's home garden produce stand features early spring vegetables in the month of August. Several events, including a hidden pregnancy that remains unobserved by the family until almost the eighth month, require enormous suspension of disbelief, and readers will see the key plot developments coming from the earliest pages. However, none of these troubles may deter Lewis's enthusiastic audience. (Sept.)
Forecast:With nearly three million novels sold, Lewis is a staple on the CBA bestseller charts. Bethany plans a major marketing push for the new series.