When her father brings home an Englisher, a person not of the Amish church, and begins teaching him the ways of a simpler lifestyle, Lucy is uncomfortably reminded of her past history dating outside the church and all of the hurt it brought her and those around her. Convinced she will never allow herself to love again, she spends every moment she can volunteering. Through grief counseling, family, scripture, and the wise words of friends, Lucy works toward forgiving herself and accepting the church back into her heart. With a young Amish man begging for her attention and her father's young Englisher acquaintance getting friendly with her, as soon as Lucy heals her relationship with God, she'll have another relationship to figure out.
Not a whole lot actually happens in The Atonement, but the main characters are very likable and there's enough interest in the day-to-day of the Amish life (at least for someone who has not read much about it in the past). From helping a young homeless mother and her child find employment and a home to sharing life stories with an old couple as the wife is in hospice care to helping a family in an overturned carriage, Lucy's kind heart makes this book a pleasure to read.
Most of the book is about the drama and lack of acceptance from the members of the church have about spending time with Englishers. Another source of conflict is that many families in the community are considering moving out west. The importance of family, repentance, and forgiveness are themes throughout.
The characters' speech was written in dialect and included some italicized Pennsylvania Dutch words throughout. It was usually pretty easy to figure out what the sentiment was, but not always what the exact translation was. I'm personally not a huge fan of reading written dialect because I find it distracting, but I can see how it adds to the authenticity.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.