In this beautifully written and deeply moving novel, Cramer uses details of his own family history to tell a little-known American story of justice gone awry. In 1921, the state of Ohio passed a law requiring all children between the ages of six and sixteen to attend public school, five days a week. Although the intent was to prevent the abuse of children in the factories, the hard-working Amish families of Salt Creek Township were caught in the law’s trap. When the Amish refused to send their children into an environment they believed would be damaging, the state removed several children from their homes, cut their hair, and forced them to dress like “Englishers.”
To escape this persecution, Caleb Bender purchases a tract of land, called Paradise Valley, in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. He, his wife, and most of their eleven children, pack their belongings into three railcars and make the long, cross-border journey into post-Revolution Mexico. Fifteen-year-old Rachel is desolate at leaving behind her boyfriend, Jake Weaver, but consoles herself with her belief that he and his family will soon follow. Life in Mexico is not easy: Bandits roam the hills, the Spanish hide within their haciendas, and the native Nahua struggle for survival. As Rachel and her older sisters, Miriam and Emma, grow into womanhood, they must find the strength within themselves to face their fears and embrace this magnificent country. Although marketed as inspirational fiction, Paradise Valley should have wide appeal to a varied audience.