Friday, July 31, 2015

Brightest and Best

Rain drops keep falling on my head (and body).  The weatherman states we will have more rain this weekend!  Soon I will not need a pool because the backyard will be underwater!

I just finished Brightest and Best by Olivia Newport. The story takes place in Geauga County, Ohio (Seabury) in 1918.  Ella Hilty is twenty-six and still lives at home.  Her mother died when she was a tween.  Her father has just remarried and Ella is no longer needed at home (what a fine how to you do).  Ella, though, has fallen for widower, Gideon Wittmer.  Gideon has three children (Tobias, Savilla, and Gertrude or Gertie).  Ella loves to read.  She goes to the library and checks out an armload of non-fiction books frequently (not supposed to read English fiction novels).  Gideon asked Ella to accompany him to visit the local school.  The teacher, Nora Coates asked some of the parents to visit to see the condition of the school.  Unfortunately, the school starts falling apart while they are inside.  While they are waiting to hear about the building of a new school, Nora gets engaged.  Now they have no teacher and no school.  The local schoolboard superintendent, Mr. Brownley has no intention of building a new school.  He wants to incorporate the children into the new progressive consolidated schools in town.  The children will be bused in to attend school (and take art, music, and other subjects that the Amish do not approve of). 

Margaret Simpson is recruited to help convince the Amish that the new schools are in their best interests.  Margaret is the teacher of first grade at the consolidated elementary school.  Margaret was not acquainted with the Amish ways or customs, which did not help her cause.  When Mr. Brownley is not happy with Margaret’s slow progress, he takes matters into his own hands.  The Amish are going to have to fight for what is best for their children.  Ella gets caught up in the middle since she is the most educated Amish person in their area.  If Ella does end up teaching the children, will she be able to get married?  What sacrifices are Ella, Gideon, and the rest of the families willing to make for the sake of their children and their beliefs. 

Brightest and Best brings up an interesting topic—Amish education.  The Amish only believe in educating their children through the eighth grade (which is just wrong).  I started reading this book and did not want to stop.  It is very engrossing.  Olivia Newport fictionalized the account of the Amish fight to educate their children the way they wanted.  She provides some great information at the end of the book (the actual history).  I give Brightest and Best 5 out of 5 stars.  This book captures your attention from the very beginning and holds it until the last page.  Olivia Newport did a wonderful job writing this book.  I think Brightest and Best is her best book yet!  I have only given a small summary of what happens in the book.  There is also a compelling mystery (which is easy to solve), romance, influenza epidemic, and a female carpenter (unusual for this time period).  Brightest and Best will be out on August 1, 2015.  If you enjoy Amish fiction, you should love this book!

I received a complimentary copy of Brightest and Best from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The review and opinions expressed are my own.

I hope everyone is staying dry and safe.  I hope you have a lovely evening and  a fabulous weekend!  Enjoy and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

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