Book Review: ‘An Unseemly Wife’ Is Highly Recommended


Review by Ann McDonald

1867. Ruth Holtz has more blessings than she can count: a loving husband, an abundant farm, beautiful children and the warm embrace of the Amish community. Then the English arrive, spreading incredible stories of free land in the West and inspiring her husband to dream of a new life in Idaho.

In ‘An Unseemly Wife’, author E.B. Moore introduces us to a lovely family. Ruth and Aaron are married and they have three boys and one little girl, Esther. They live in an Amish community and have a very productive farm and generally want for nothing, they feel that God has blessed them. As the story begins, Ruth is in her kitchen and Esther is on the floor playing with her doll. Looking out the kitchen window, she is shocked to see men on horseback at the end of her lane – the English! She becomes frantic with her fear of outsiders coming to the front. She knows Aaron is in the barn and she wills him to come out, her need for protection for Esther and herself of paramount importance.

Aaron does come out and speaks to the men who have been told he has good horses and they wish to buy some from him. They tell him of the government grants of land in Idaho, with as much acreage as he can manage. Idaho is open for the settling. This whole scene tells you the backstory to this novel. Aaron is anxious for more land and he informs Ruth that the boys need to be able to have land of their own one day and that there is not enough room within their community. He is restless and wants desperately to move but Ruth, who is pregnant, is terrified and appalled at the idea of leaving her home, her farm and face a birthing on her own, to travel with the English on a wagon train.

She simply cannot comprehend it and fights with Aaron and becomes an unseemly wife. At the end of the day however, she really has no say in it and they leave on a wagon that Aaron has built especially for the journey, a trip that will take many seasons to reach their intended destination. We go with them on this migration and share the ups and many downs as they make their way. You sense the change in Ruth and how she is coping. Aaron on the other hand, we don’t get to know as well as this trek belongs to Ruth but it’s an incredible one. You find yourself standing with her, helping her to birth her son and trying desperately to survive the mistrust the English against the Amish.

It is a revelation to her that she is unacceptable to some Christians who don’t believe they worship the same God. Many things happen and many tears are shed before it is over and the change in Ruth is complete. The men and women you meet will stay with you for a very long time. If you ever wondered what it was like on a wagon train, facing harsh weather, wild people and even wilder Indians, then read on as this book will enlighten you and you will look out your kitchen window and be thankful that you are where you are and maybe say a prayer for those gone before. Highly recommended.

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Ann McDonald
  1. December 3, 2014
  2. December 25, 2014

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