Johanna Ilg has lived in Main Amana Colonies, Iowa her entire life. New Amana is one of the settlements that the devout Christians of German descent settled after leaving New York. There is approximately 500 people living in the settlement. More than one family live in a house and all share several communal kitchens. The elders or the Bruderrat of the settlement has assigned Johanna to work in the Kuche (kitchen) under the direction of the Kuchebaas (boss) – Sister Thekla Muhlbach. Each village has the Bruderrat who appoint the foreman for their industries and such. They also have the Grossebruderrat who oversee all matters that affect the colonies.
Berta Schumacher is the spoiled daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Schumacher from Chicago. They have come to live in Amana where Dr, Schumacher will be the doctor in Main Amana. Berta is unaware that her family plans to remain in Amana and pitches a fit. She does not want to stay in Amana or live in the same house with the Ilgs. Berta has been assigned to work in the Kuche and it is Johanna’s job to train her.
Berta is an unruly seventeen year old child who flaunts authority and is always getting into trouble. She resents her family moving to Amana, defies Sister Muhlbach’s authority and pretty much does as she pleases. Johanna is a well mannered twenty-one year old woman who always obeys the rules and never gives anyone any trouble. She secretly dreams of visiting Chicago and seeing something of the outside world. Her brother Wilhelm left the colonies a number of years ago. He is now married to Larissa and have an elaborate home in Chicago.
On one of Wilhelm and Larissa’s visit to Amana, Johanna learns a troubling family secret that changes her life. She is devastated – has her whole life been a lie. Johanna is permitted by her parents to accompany Wilhelm back to Chicago for visit. Her mother is afraid she will not return and blames Larissa for Wilhelm living in Chicago. Will she return to Amana or stay in Chicago? Will she forgive the people who have keep this secret from her?
During Johanna’s absents Berta gets into deeper trouble and runs away. She goes to Chicago to find her father (who is attending a medical conference) and Johanna. What happens to Berta in Chicago?. Will she return to Amana. Will the people forgive her?
The people of Amana live a life similar to the Amish. The people in Amana are Germans where the Amish are Dutch. Both the Amish and the Amana people are devout Christians and wish to live a life secluded from the outside world.
I highly recommend the book. You will read how the people in Amana live their daily lives, the hard work they endure and their faith in God.
Judith Miller is an excellent author of historical fiction.