My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it
In 1737, Anna Konig and her fellow church members stagger off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. On the docks of Port Philadelphia waits bishop Jacob Bauer, founder of the settlement and father to ship carpenter Bairn. It's a time of new beginnings for the reunited Bauer family, and for Anna and Bairn's shipboard romance to blossom.
But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World--isolated, rigid with expectations, under the thumb of his domineering father--his enthusiasm evaporates. When a sea captain offers the chance to cross the ocean one more time, Bairn grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?
When Henrik Newman joins the church just as it makes its way to the frontier, Anna is torn. He seems to be everything Bairn is not--bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And the most dramatic difference? He is here; Bairn is not.
Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves together the lives of Bairn, Anna, and Henrik. When a secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?
I absolutely loved the first book in the Amish Beginnings series, Anna's Crossing. I was thrilled when I learned that it would become a series and we had two more books to look forward to, continuing Anna and Bairn's story. The Newcomer picks right up where Anna's Crossing left off, so I highly recommend reading Anna's Crossing first in order to get to know the characters and especially to understand Anna and Bairn's relationship. In The Newcomer we also get the point of view from Bairn's mother Dorothea and his little brother Felix. I appreciated that as some members of the church become separated we are able to see what is happening with each smaller group. Felix adds plenty of humor to the story with his curiosity and talent for getting into scrapes; he was one of my favorites in this book! Dorothea and Bairn's journeys were far apart in miles but paralleled in spirituality. They both did quite a bit of soul-searching and I loved the theme of drawing closer to God in order to find peace in the midst of tribulation. Anna endured the complaints and uncertainty of the church members at the homestead with grace and compassion, which is what I love most about her character. Henrik's optimism helped her during this anxious time when Bairn was absent, but the foreshadowing woven in had me feeling anxious and I just wanted to quickly read to see how the book would end, how Anna would choose between these two men. I missed the interaction between Anna and Bairn that made me love the first book, so I'm hoping that the next book will offer more in the romance department ;)
(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)