Susan Wiggs takes what seems like a cliche and uses her writing chops to turn out a novel, “Between You & Me,” that is touching, thoughtful and unique. Romance between the Amish and the “English” (as they refer to those of us who are not Amish) is fairly standard fare in romance novels. Wiggs doesn’t sugar-coat anything in terms of the main characters and their cultural backgrounds.
Reese Powell, at the tail end of her medical studies, meets Caleb Stoltz, an Amish community member, who takes care of his orphaned niece and nephew after their parents were murdered in a freak robbery. Reese comes from physician parents who are very specialized and very successful. She attended the best schools, and her parents have nothing but the highest aspirations for her. One of her parents is a neonatologist and the other is a fertility specialist. She, according to her parents’ aspirations, is to become a pediatric surgeon, thus completing their practice.
The problem is that Reese is not as sure as her parents are that that’s what she wants to do with her life. Then she meets Caleb, who is gorgeous, confident, and very different from everyone else she knows. She meets him after his nephew, Jonah, has had a serious accident and must have his arm amputated.
The reader learns a lot about Caleb when, after his nephew is horribly injured and the medical professionals want to airlift him to a large hospital, Caleb agrees in spite of the community’s insistence that flying in a helicopter is forbidden and that Jonah’s fate should just be left in God’s hands. That’s the first big clue that Caleb isn’t a typical Amish man.
Slowly, the reader learns more about Caleb and his relationships with the Amish community, his brother, and his father. Wiggs spends a bit of the book explaining the Amish culture and its many taboos. She also explains that some things, like corporal punishment for children (and wives) are allowed because the Amish community believes in the biblical “spare the rod, spoil the child” and also believes that the father is the absolute ruler of the house and can do whatever he pleases with those who live there. So often, a blind eye is turned to abuse. She also explains why Caleb lives there in spite of the fact that he’d rather not continue to be part of the Amish community.
It’s a lovely story and perfect for reading while sitting at the pool or beach. It’s also perfect for reading in winter with a cup of hot cocoa. It’s a great choice for anyone who has thought about what it means to live a simple life and the things that influence the decisions we make for our future.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by William Morrow, the publisher, for review purposes.