In a departure from her Patch of Heaven series and Amish-based novellas, Kelly Long here portrays the early-American lives of the Amish at the time the "Patriots" were fighting the British. Arms of Love is a much darker book than Long's previous works; not only do the Patriots persecute the Amish, leaving the British looking like the "good guys," but in this look at their lives, we see domestic abuse and its long-term consequences.
I cannot help but wonder about the title, and whether the author intended any pun on arms, because of the presence of war and the loss of Adam's arms around her when Lena needed him most. But I haven't quite wrapped my mind around that possibility.
Adam Wyse loves only one girl--Lena Yoder; Lena's heart will admit no man but Adam. But because of trauma going far back in his life--and, we learn very late in the book, farther back in the life of his father--Adam has torturous nightmares and a seething rage. Lena's parents see the darkness in Adam, and a day before she dies in childbirth, Lena's mother presses Adam to make a promise: that he will give up Lena and his love for her, give up their unofficial plans to marry, until he has conquered the darkness in his life. He makes the promise, but more than once, he is tempted to break it, after Mrs. Yoder dies. But against all the cries of his heart, he keeps the promise without revealing it to Lena, whose own heart is then broken twice, on the same day that her mother dies.
Along the way, we learn that Adam has good memories of life with father, up to the age of about ten years, but he cannot remember why that changed so that his father became, first, physically abusive, and then settled for playing with Adam's mind and emotions. And for most of the book, Adam cannot seem to garner the strength to break away, although he speaks of offering his services to the Patriots--not to fight, but perhaps as a farrier. Can he break the chains of his past without having to leave behind his Amish faith and community? And can he do that in time to restore his relationship with Lena? And whose voice is it that he hears, repeatedly telling him to wait, to be patient?
Arms of Love operates on so many levels: Domestic violence, PTSD, loss, spiritual growth, romance, confession, grace, redemption and restoration all play their respective parts. Strong people experience loss, weak people grow stronger, and pieces fall into place. How they come to that end forms a novel with more twists than a pretzel. And I really like the bishop, though he makes an appearance very late in the book. I solidly recommend the Arms of Love; Kelly Long knows how to weave a tale.