cover image The Witnesses

The Witnesses

Linda Byler. Good Books (www.goodbooks.com), $13.99 trade paper (332p) ISBN 978-

Amish author Byler (Lizzie Searches for Love) delivers an insightful final novel to the Lancaster Burning series, her Amish-themed stories set in Lancaster County, Penn. Sarah Beiler has waited for Matthew Stolzfus to make her his wife, and now it might be only six months away. But Matthew sets conditions: Sarah must put her Amish life behind her, which would result in her being shunned. Meanwhile, someone is setting barn fires, terrorizing the community. Sarah attempting to rescue horses gets trapped in a burning barn, resulting in months of grueling pain and surgeries in the burn center. Sarah returns home with physical and emotional scars, yet a clearer vision of love, marriage, Matthew, and another suitor, Lee Glick. While the plot lacks somewhat in suspense, Byler makes up for with thematic interest: Amish rules of the church (Ordnung), values and customs (even recipes). During a meeting about the fires, Sarah's father, Davey Beiler, confronts community dissension regarding forgiveness versus vengeance, and the Amish way of nonresistance: "We don't resist. We don't believe in war. If someone takes your coat, give him your cloak." This richly layered representation of a peaceful, close-knit community provides an intriguing glimpse into Amish life and lore for new Byler readers, and a solid series conclusion for her fans. (Mar.)