The Sound of Distant Thunder - Jan Drexler

Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents' insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation?

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Seventeen year old Katie Stuckey cannot wait to marry her twenty year old boyfriend Jonas Weaver. The feeling is mutual for Jonas, but while he looks forward to a future with Katie and enthusiastically jumps into building their home from scratch, his mind is also quite consumed with thoughts of the approaching Civil War, conscription and the abolitionist fight. Jonas battles conflicting feelings: technically, the concept of war goes against his Amish faith, yet he's not comfortable sitting idly by while others put their lives on the line to end slavery. He does have a little wiggle room in his favor in that he has yet to be officially baptized within the Amish faith, so if he chose to serve in the war, there would likely be less harsh consequence with the church elders. 

 

Fate seems to make the choice for Jonas. When his married brother is drafted but unwilling to leave the family, Jonas volunteers to take his place. There is a historical mention within this story that explains that at the time of conscription, those with religious conflict (something similar to the more modern idea of "conscientious objector", I imagine) could opt to have another man go in his place or pay a $200 fine. Jonas asks his good friend Levi to look after Katie while he's away, not knowing that Levi secretly carries a strong flame for Katie himself.

 

Jonas goes off to the battlefield, doing his best to balance his duty as a soldier with continuing to honor his Amish beliefs (mainly, to do as little harm as possible). While Jonas is away, Levi finds the temptation to woo his buddy's girl almost unbearable. 

 

I think this might be the first Amish themed novel I've come across that is set in Civil War years. The idea definitely pulled at my curiosity, but the execution did not quite hit the mark for me. Technically, the writing is fine, just DULL. The romance portions don't tug at the heartstrings and the plot lacks any sort of real tension to keep things lively. Everything is moving along just sort of there... baseline existing, but never quite giving me something to truly root for. 

 

Also, there was a pretty underdeveloped element to Katie's background story that suggested she might be struggling with some PTSD-like behaviors following a sexual assault or attempted assault. It's hard to say though because it felt only vaguely woven into the story (as far as the details of WHAT actually happened), yet Drexler also tried to make it seem like it was a pivotal part Katie's emotional make up, hinting at how it might affect her future marriage. The whole thing just felt sort of sloppily interjected into the rest of the book. It would've been nice to see this fleshed out more. 

 

The back cover features a blurb from Suzanne Woods Fisher hailing this book as "compelling and memorable". While I do enjoy Fisher's writing and would like to trust her vote of praise, on this one I will have to respectfully disagree. It's doubtful that I will have much interest in carrying on with this series. 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.