Our world is full of dreamers looking for that magical place just beyond the mountains or across the river. Mattie's Pledge (book 2 in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series ) by Jan Drexler is the story of a young Amish woman who is seduced by wanderlust. Mattie Schrock left Brother's Valley in Pennsylvania with her family to settle in Indiana. She loved the lure of seeing new places and longed for adventure and yearned to see what was just beyond the mountains. Not new to pulling up stakes, Mattie's father had moved the family to Brother's Valley from the Conestoga area just seven years before.
It was 1843 and Americans were involved with the westward movement, including the Amish people. Farmland was getting scarce and the promise of cheaper land and the opportunity to build a larger community moving west appealing. We often read of the great migration to the Oregon but the Midwest was still largely unsettled at the time.
Jacob Yoder's family from the Conestoga area, former neighbors and friends of the Schrock's joined in to complete the group. As old friends, Jacob and Mattie enjoyed reconnecting that travelling by wagon afforded them time to get to know each other as young adults with dreams and plans ready to unfold. Jacob planned to purchase land and build a future home for a wife and family. Mattie was committed to adventure and had no desire to settle down in one place for the rest of her life. Two hearts so close yet with such different dreams.
Traveling on any trail wouldn't be complete without danger. The Bates brothers added that element of danger with their determination to steal the beautiful Conestoga horses from the Amish camp. Cole Bates was intrigued by Mattie and had just enough charm to give her romantic ideas to dream of going further to Oregon. He was determined to have those horses and capture Mattie's heart for his own.
This story shows the example of forgiveness of the Amish people. When Cole is caught red-handed trying to steal the horses, he is told to take just one team and leave the rest. Unable to figure out whether that was a trick, he let them be, at least that night. He was also offered food which was also an unexpected kindness.
Cole's greed and determination to have those horses keeps Jacob Yoder on guard throughout the trip. His patience and vigilance throughout the story shows great patience and courage. He used these traits with Mattie, knowing she was searching for something to fill up her life beyond her simple life.
Jan Drexler has painted the characters of her story with care. The development of their characters and how they grew in the story are a compliment to the author. It was good to read of the ups and downs of their nature and see how they used their given strengths to get through their trials. While the story focuses mainly on Mattie, Jacob and Cole, we can't overlook the other stories being told within the lives of these young people. They are woven into the daily life on the trail and play active roles in shaping our main characters.
We can get as impatient as Mattie as the story plods along through a black marsh or becomes difficult as a tragic storm hits them on the road. Yet the resilience of all the people in this story are a testament to the strength men and women possessed to keep our country growing. The Amish are an important part of our society, living out their Anabaptist faith still today. America is a potpourri of culture and religions, the very thing our founders embraced.