Somewhere to belong tells the story of two young women that come together when the Schumachers move to Amana from Chicago, where they have lived a life of comfort and luxury; looks, things, trips to the mall and self gratification were taken for granted. They meet the Ilgs, who have lived in Amana since it was established. Johanna Ilg is assigned the task of helping Berta Schumacher to understand the Amana way of living and her role in the community. But Berta does not fit in, and she keeps trying to get her parents’ attention; after all, she was told the family would be in Amana for some weeks, not for good. Johanna and Berta do not have an easy time together, but they learn valuable lessons, like the awareness of one’s work and how it affects other members of the community – a true lesson of unselfishness and responsibility; or how forgiveness and understanding can be the most valuable assets in life. Everything will test their faith, but Johanna explains that it is just getting stronger. Overall, a certainty of who we are, a certainty of life and a dependence on God are developed throughout the story.
The author uses a very interesting writing technique. One chapter, it is Johanna telling the story; the next one, it is Berta. This makes the story much more intriguing, as the reader is able to see how one character’s decisions affect the other, and a sort of compassion and empathy between them is developed little by little, despite being so different. It keeps the reader wanting to discover what unexpected surprises the next pages keep. What Johanna and Berta have in common is that their families have kept secrets and they must decide whether to be selfish or see the issue from another point of view when the true facts are known. Both young women learn that we all go through difficult situations, but it is better to face the problems and not to run away from them; also, we must be prepared to live the consequences of our choices, and that of others.
I enjoyed this book so much, that I have been researching some about the Amana Colonies. There are many things we can learn from the Amana people, and I was thrilled to know that they are open to visitors. I will definitely be reading more of Judith Miller. I can’t wait for the next book in the series to be published!
Bethany House Publishers gave me a complimentary copy of the book for review, but this does not bias my opinion on the book nor on the author.