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ESCAPE FROM HEART by Lynette Stark


by Lynette Stark

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-202385-2
Publisher: Harcourt

Totally implausible to anyone acquainted with Mennonites, and totally misleading to anyone else, this first novel by the author tells a melodramatic story of an evil leader’s impact on Sarah Ruth’s beloved Heart Colony of Mennonites. The story opens with a glimpse of the foot-washing ceremony and Hezekiel’s anger with his wife and children for failing to attend. He proceeds to beat his wife, his children, as well as those of others, and to tote a shotgun around, occasionally shooting at people he wants to intimidate. This plot line is absurd since pacifism and anti-violence are the strongest tenets of actual Mennonites. Sarah Ruth seems realistic, unlike the other characters, but it’s hard to accept that in the dog days of a Mississippi August she and her brothers have been attending school. In fact, she has qualified to be a contestant in the countywide spelling bee when Hezekiel forbids them to attend any longer. As Sarah Ruth struggles to understand the conflict in the community, Hezekiel is manipulating events to give him complete control. It’s too much for Sarah’s mother, who supports Sarah’s attendance at the spelling bee and then is forced to leave the community altogether. Add in a little courtship, a kidnapping, a dangerous gasoline oil spill, and an accidental death by tractor, and the plot truly runneth over. Furthermore, the religious element never jells, with little scripture quoted and only one Bible story. A shame. (Fiction. 12-14)