Friday, July 17, 2015

THE INNOCENT, by Ann H. Gabhart

    Carlyn Kearney is living life at the near edge of poverty. Her soldier husband was reported missing during the last years of the War Between the States. The war has ended, but no word has come as to whether he is alive or dead. Since she has no income and a mortgage debt she cannot pay, an unscrupulous mortgage-holder demands the sheriff evict her from the house she shared with her husband. The sheriff, Mitchell Brodie, takes an interest in Carlyn and negotiates an agreement to give her time to find someplace else to live.
    With nowhere to go, she seeks shelter in a nearby Shaker community. The Shakers are reputed to be peace-loving and willing to accept refugees from the world. From the beginning, Carlyn finds life in the community anything but peaceful. The rules are overwhelming, and she learns immediately that she's not allowed to keep her dog or any of her "worldly" possessions.
    Things go downhill from there, and Carlyn finds herself a suspect in mysterious events that take place within the village. She has an ally in the sheriff, but he's not welcome in the community and she cannot leave.
    This story fascinated me in many ways. Carlyn's dilemma is heartbreaking and the mystery kept me guessing until the final pages. Beyond that, I appreciated how Ann Gabhart gave readers a look at Shaker life from the viewpoint of a doubter.
    This story goes beyond the "bonnet cover" to reveal the lives of real people. I recommend The Innocent highly.
    My thanks to Revell and the author for my review copy.