This Passing Hour (Amish Memories)

Written by Leslie Gould
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

Brenna Zimmerman, a young Mennonite woman who has been traumatized by her parents’ death in Oregon, moves to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to attend a community college and live closer to her Amish grandparents. She befriends an Army veteran classmate, Rylan Sanders, and helps him deal with his disabilities stemming from the recent war in Afghanistan. Rylan is selfish and manipulative, trying the patience of their circle of friends. The friends include both Mennonite and Ukrainian young people. Eventually Rylan’s demanding, troublemaking behavior expands to where he is endangering the home and livelihood of Brenna’s grandparents. She needs to consider how much help she really owes him, and whether or not setting boundaries is what a true Christian would do.

Meanwhile, Brenna’s great-aunt Rosene, a German-born Amish woman now in her nineties, is relating the story of Brenna’s great-great aunt Martha to her in alternate chapters of the book. Martha helped on the farm during World War II, when the family had troublesome German prisoners-of-war assisting with agricultural tasks. Martha worked as a translator, formed a relationship with a non-Amish man, sought out German spies, and hoped to go to Europe after the war to help re-settle refugees.

The two completely different stories left me scratching my head, as each stopped the other’s narrative drive and was, frankly, just confusing. I think the author needed to expand Brenna’s story and Martha’s story into two books. The fact that each was about the same family in different time periods still did not make the plot lines gel. I liked the admirable values of the Amish and the Mennonites: love, faith, charity, family. They gave this book an emotional resonance that I found inspiring.