A Hidden Truth by Judith Miller: A Hard Truth by me…the plot and characters were flat

My husband took one look at the cover of “A Hidden Truth”, yawned and said, “it looks really boring.”  I promptly told him he should know by now not to judge a book by its cover.  I came close to eating my words, but I won’t go so far as to say this book was boring.

The story develops around two distantly related cousins Karlina and Dovie, their lives in the Amana Colonies, and the “life changing” discoveries they make.

A Hidden Truth did not draw me into the lives of the characters or cause me to connect with them on any universal level. Rather, the two main characters were flat and uninteresting, and the men they ultimately fell in love with were no better developed.  Dovie, the first character introduced, lacks emotional depth.  For example, there is no portrayal of believable grief about the recent death of her mother, even though a major component of the plot is Dovie’s quest to understand her mother’s past.  Indeed, the quest felt robotic and emotionally disconnected.  Dovie’s character also lacks realistic internal conflict.  Her quick and easy adjustment to the confines and restraints of life in the Amana Colonies is simply unbelievable – could anyone coming from a more free and open lifestyle really adapt so readily to the rigidity and monotony of the Amana way of life?  Yet there is never a hint of chafing from Dovie’s perspective.  Neither is the developing romance between Dovie and a young man she meets highly believable, as the author does not describe any meaningful dialogue between the two characters or insights into why they are attracted to each other.  Karlina, the second main character is also a flat character, primarily because she is simply too good to be true.  When the worst thing this young woman has ever done is aid a sick family outside the Amana Colony borders how does the average reader relate?   Indeed, the only character in the book that has character flaws is the apprentice shepherd, Anton, who has an anger problem.  That flaw is quickly mended though, as Anton mysteriously discovers patience and peace doing a job he hates, alongside a woman who often berates and reprimands him…why he falls in love with her on that basis is also something of a mystery.

Aside from weak characterization, the plot is shallow, and to put it bluntly, the story simply lacks excitement.  The monotonous daily routine that undoubtedly was an accurate portrayal of life in the Amana Colonies did not help in this regard.  Furthermore, Dovie’s search for truth about her mother was completely anti-climatic.  I don’t do spoilers, but I will say that the plot was weakened when the ‘secret’ came out, simply because it made no sense why people would go to so much trouble to conceal it in the first place. Finally, the plot was too predictable, particularly Karlina’s ‘discovery’ about Anton.

Ultimately, I gained nothing from reading this book – not even a greater knowledge of the Amana Colonies from a purely historical perspective.

But, to be fair, it’s worth pointing out that:

1) I never fell asleep while reading

2) I did finish the boo

3) You might like it if you are drawn to Amish-style books that emphasize the virtues of austere, hard-working people, and if you are content with a storyline that progresses with very little conflict or surprise, but with lots of descriptive details about food and food preparation.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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