“Keep thine own faith. Wear love around thee like a shield,
and no harm shall come to thee, even when thou walk
in the valley of darkness. God bless and protect thee,
and keep the road before thee straight and open.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Rumspringa is the time for teenagers in the Amish community to experience life outside their world before returning home to make the decision to join the Amish culture forever. No one is as excited about this as Katie is. She can hardly wait to see what life outside the walls of her plainfolk community is like. She plans on seeing her first movie and enjoying things she’s only heard of. Elijah has been waiting for Katie; and after they return home, he wants them to spend their lives together. While Katie cares very much for Elijah and adores her own family, she has feelings of unease and wonders why she isn’t the obedient, docile young girl she is expected to be.
But before Katie and Elijah can make any more plans for Rumspringa, the whole world is plunged into chaos. It begins with a helicopter crash right outside the gates of their community. As Katie tries to help whoever is trapped in that fiery crash, she sees something inside the helicopter. Something terrifying.
News spreads that there is a contagion affecting the world, and no one is allowed in or out of the gates. When Katie finds an injured stranger lying just outside of their border, she is shocked when the Elders turn their back on him instead of helping him. Katie is encouraged to join the church officially amid all of the disorder and madness, but Katie just can’t bring herself to do that – she simply can’t submit to the Elders when she disagrees with them so strongly. Especially when an injured stranger – an outsider – needs their help, and Katie is the only one willing to risk everything to help him.
I LOVED reading about Katie and her Amish life. The beliefs and customs of the Amish are fascinating and admittedly educational. I was so intrigued by their prayers and the realization that there were a few similarities to the religion that I was raised with. Katie’s faith -- and even the faith of her family and the Elders -- was a beautiful thing to read about… especially when that faith was tested. I love an author who can get me so lost in the story that I can’t stop wondering, “What would I do?” Katie has definitely become a favorite female heroine, but she goes to the top of the bravery list. It takes such incredible courage to question the beliefs and religious instruction that have been instilled in you since the day you were born… and even more to not lose that faith when impossible things are happening all around you. I thought Katie’s attempt to make sense of the mayhem and her response to getting her first glimpse of the terrifying monsters were heartbreaking, and I truly felt for her:
“I am being punished for my sins. That was my first thought.
Clearly, the gates of hell had burst open.”
“My head hurt, my heart ached, and I knew that there was
no hope of sleep tonight. I kept picturing those monsters I’d seen today,
free to roam in the darkness. I struggled with the concept that
an idea like faith could create a strong-enough wall to keep them out.
My own faith felt tenuous and weak… I couldn’t imagine it being powerful
enough to keep the vampires at bay.”
Katie’s love and concern for the well-being of not only her dogs but all the animals in her community made me adore her even more.
“I scooped all the cans of dog food that would fit into the backpack.
I hesitated, then went back for a second backpack and
filled that with dry food. I knew as well as anyone else
that when food went short, the animals would suffer most.
Not if I could help it.”
Another character I favored was Herr Stolz, the Hexenmeister of their plainfolk community. He was responsible for painting the hex signs on the barns. Katie describes him as “mystical and not living entirely within our strict rules.” I knew immediately that there was more to Herr Stolz than met the eye and felt he would be invaluable not only to the story but to the plight of the community. He was very wise and an extremely engrossing character.
I don’t want to say too much about Alex, the injured young man that Katie secretly helps, for fear of giving anything away; but I will say that he is a captivating character that I enjoyed immensely, and his interactions with Katie were riveting.
Don’t shy away from this one based on the religious aspects – it’s not that kind of book and it adds so much depth to the story. The Hallowed Ones is absorbing, exciting, and terrifying. I read it in one sitting and still haven’t stopped thinking about it. If you’re looking for a thrilling but uniquely refreshing tale, then this is one you don’t want to miss.