This is the third book in the "Courtship of Lancaster County" series. I have a friend who lives in Lancaster County, PA and she takes some beautiful photos of the occasional Amish thing she sees (this one is a favorite) but when I started to read this book I realized how I know absolutely nothing about the Amish and just kept hoping the author wouldn't lead me astray with what I was "learning." There were several words that were unfamiliar (do you know how long it's been since I've even heard the phrase "Pennsylvania Dutch"? Probably high school?) but through context hoped I was getting it. To be fair, most of the words weren't so foreign I couldn't figure most of them out. Dat and Mamm, denke and jah were no brainers but there were others like youngie (which I am still just assuming but...a group of young people? I should google that.) and rumschpringe that left me curious. Sometimes a book will have a glossary explaining words, phrases etc. in the back but this one did not include something like that. Possibly because it was already the third in the series and they figure if you don't have it figured out by now why are you still reading?
Other things like how Molly wore flip flops and carried a cell phone threw me. The arranging for drivers for transportation to places was new to me. Personally I think that sounds great, I hate driving and would love to have a person I could call up that would drive me into the city. The final thing that threw me was a youngie camping trip the characters planned. Instead of being able to concentrate on the story I just kept thinking the Amish go camping? I know people who are not Amish but regular farmers and camping is really rare for them. Especially the dairy farmers I knew because who would milk all the cows? I was halfway through the camping scene before I decided to give up figuring out of that was a real thing or not. When I read in the author's note at the end of the book that she uses Shakespeare as a starting point for her stories and that this one was A Midsummer Night's Dream the camping bit (ie a night in the woods) made just slightly more sense.
Now that my musings are out of the way let's get on to the review.
Minding Molly is the story of Molly Zook who, I believe, is in her early twenties? Maybe twenty? She's currently taken charge of the family farm which grows flowers and nursery stock and hosts a weekend market ever since her dad passed away suddenly (and recently) and it looked like they might lose the farm. Her mom doesn't do well with making business decisions and has been acting so strangely they arrange a CT scan for her, she has a half-brother creeping around trying to buy the place out from under them, her sister doesn't seem interested in helping out around the place and sits around staring into space or writing into a mysterious journal. Then her mom starts pressuring her to marry the neighbor boy who works for them but her best friend is in love with him so she can't do that to her no matter to save their farm or not. Plus she doesn't love him and she wants to at least love whom she marries. The boy working for her best friend's family is from out of state and instantly catches her eye but everything seems to come between them as they try to court.
At home Molly is the organizer, the hard worker, the boss and people respect her authority, decisions and planning. When they decide to go camping everyone suddenly hates her for the same personality/skill set. And everyone - and I mean everyone - groans out their words. I've never read a story where every single page had so and so groaning or so and so moaning. Used appropriately I can understand but this was obviously enough use to catch my attention.
During the camping scene I honestly felt like another story or maybe even another author had taken over the book and plopped it into the plot. Everyone devolved into whining, conniving children. Speaking of children there was a whole thing about a toddler whose parents could not attend so they sent it along on the camping trip with all these young people and their chaperoning couple. Is that an Amish thing? Who in their right mind would actually do this?
Granted, the woods in A Midsummer Night's Dream changed people while they were there but Shakespeare was at least able to put it eloquently. This made me want to bash my head into a wall while they all tramped around the woods glaring at each other and fighting over imagined schemes of stealing boyfriends. I actually reached a point where I thought this was YA fiction (based on the character's behavior) but I don't think it is.
The big question here is will Molly's tumultuous relationships work themselves out? I do feel there was a satisfying ending to the story but I won't be giving away more than that.
There were a few moments in this story that I did like. I connected with Molly in name, in having a father die suddenly, in having a mother start behaving all strangely and in losing the place you loved living and working, There were a few moments with people talking out issues and problems that I thought "yeah that's some good stuff right there." but they were so lost in the rest of the story I just don't feel it was worth slogging through to find them.
The idea of these stories being based on Shakespeare really appeal to me and I want to like it. I've heard the first two were actually pretty good, and the one that's supposed to come after this is a Much Ado About Nothing story line which actually appeals to me and I may give that one a go. Maybe by then I'll have brushed up on my Pennsylvania Dutch.
I received a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review from Bethany House Publishers. Opinions and words are mine.
I really hate writing reviews of books I don't like...this makes me sad.