Rachel Thompson's Reviews > Somewhere to Belong

Somewhere to Belong by Judith McCoy Miller
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Sep 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: historical

This story follows two different girls, both searching for somewhere to belong. Johanna has lived in Amana her entire life, but has always longed to see the outside world, especially Chicago where her brother lives. Berta's family has just moved to Amana to try a simpler life, but Berta has no interest in learning how to coexist within the rigid structure of the community. Berta and Johanna are thrown together as Johanna much teach Berta the rules of their society. Both girls work within the communal kitchens, feeding their community three meals a day. Everyone also attends prayer services every night, which doesn't seem to leave them much free time, yet Berta manages to get into constant trouble, though she tries to do better as her relationship with Johanna evolves.

This book is written in first-person viewpoint, which allows the reader to see the lives of both girls. This technique was interesting at first, but after awhile it kind of grated on me, as I'd much rather have read the entire book from Johanna's POV. Berta's constant need for adventure and mischief grew old, while I liked watching Johanna struggle to try to get Berta to adapt. Also, even though each chapter heading listed the girl's name so that you knew whose viewpoint you were in, I still managed to get confused, so this wasn't really the best technique.

My only other complaint was the setting. I assumed at first that this was an Amish book, and even after finishing it, I still wasn't sure it wasn't. Only after reading a few comments on line did I realize that the Amana community is completely different. I also had no idea what time this was set in. Based on the way Berta is dressed in the very first scene, I would have guessed this was a historical book, but this wasn't made clear, nor did I have any idea what year it was, or even where in the world this place was until later in the story.

Still, the author told a good story that drew me in from the very first scene, and I enjoyed the book overall.
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