WHICH WAY COURAGE by Eiveen Weiman


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Add a comma to the title and you have the play on words that sums up Courage Kuntzler's predicament: shall she remain with her Old Order Amish family--and inevitably marry ""plain and clean and unexciting"" Abel--or shall she accept ostracized ""Outsider"" Uncle George's invitation to live with his family, which will likely mean leaving home for good? The road to this excruciating choice--especially daunting for a girl of 13 or so--is relatively quick; but given the book's 1980s brevity, the pros and cons are adroitly and discerningly set forth. Courage is an independent thinker--prone to dispute, logically, what others accept as God's will. Unlike her sisters, she isn't really domestic--her preordained role if she remains. And her pen-palship with ""shunned"" cousin Jane has given her a glimpse of a more exciting, diverse existence than the ""quiet"" one that Jane, in turn, admires. On the other hand, for all their outward, soberly-garbed likeness, her seven brothers and sisters are all different. And her father, though unbending in his beliefs, is no tyrant; despite his misgivings, he agrees to let Courage go to high school for a year. But Courage's solitary decision to take sickly little brother Jason first to the doctor, then to the hospital (where, denied earlier treatment, he dies), brings her to the point of recognizing that their differences are irreconcilable. In the book's one slightly hollow line, she says: ""I cannot live my life as an obedient doll."" So she will, with tears but no faltering, go into the world with Uncle George. Apart from their salient traits, the characters are undeveloped; but the situation is treated as a special one, not exploited to glorify adolescent rebellion or emergent feminism. There's a decency and reticence here that command respect, as well as other, writerly virtues--like the telling use of Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch speech--that even unexceptional readers will respond to.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum