Sarasota Dreams by Debby Mayne

February 28, 2014

Summary: Romance blossoms in Sarasota, Florida, in the Mennonite community of Pinecraft. There, three young women find their plain and contented lives disrupted by love. Will Mary find lasting love with Abe, despite the stigma that follows her because of her mother’s sins? Can Shelley trust Jeremiah, even though his past—and her parents—are stacked against him? And should Ruthie fall for a man who is not even Mennonite?

When I read the summary, I was immediately intrigued by the book. I have never read a book regarding Mennonite people or their beliefs. Being raised as a Catholic, I thought it would be an interesting read, and one in which I would learn a little at the same time. Starting the book was a little bit of a challenge since it didn't capture  my attention right away, but the more I read the story the more I couldn't put it down! Throughout reading the book, I was shocked at how simple their lives were: they didn't see the  need to have a car (they used bikes, buses, or hired a local driver to take them to their destination), electricity was very minimal at that, and their clothing was very plain. They are the definition of leading a simple lifestyle with no needs/wants for materialistic items!

Question: What are the Mennonite's and what are their beliefs? I asked myself the same question and for the answer - I googled it of course! The Mennonite's are a Christian group founded by Menno Simmons. They believe in the inspiration of the Bible and in Jesus Christ as the One sent by God to bring reconciliation between the Creator and a broken world. The believe that peace building is an achievable way of life, and they recognize the value of organized religion.

This book deals with 3 main couples:

Mary and Abe: Abe has grown up in the Mennonite community and has lived a life as one of the Church's followers and has spread the good word to all, he lives the church's' teaching's to its fullest. He has his own farm and plenty of land which he uses to cultivate crops. Mary, on the other hand, didn't grow up in the Mennonite community. After her mother got pregnant with her and left the town, Mary grew up with barely anything. She never knew her grandparents until her mother passed away and she came to live with them. At that time, she was the new kid who others made fun of. From everything her mother taught her about men, Mary has a hard time trusting them and what they said and did. However, Abe is one that believes if it's meant to be, it will be. He is a man that is very kind-hearted and giving to his community. He is a man of his word and wouldn't try to push Mary into a relationship she isn't ready for. However, will Mary finally let down her borders and welcome a man into her life?

Shelley and Jeremiah: Shelley has just been hurt by Peter, who she thought would soon pop the question. When Peter said he was getting engaged to another girl, that tore Shelley to pieces and she put her dreams of getting married on hold. Jeremiah on the other hand, left the Mennonite Church and was what you would call a bad boy. He said some hurtful words to Mary and also drove a fancy car which was far from the Mennonite people's way of life. People who leave the Mennonite church are looked as outcasts to the church members. When Jeremiah comes to Abe for help in trying to return to the Church, Jeremiah does all that he can to make this a new beginning for him. He has always had an attraction for Shelley so during this process - he tries to not only win Shelley's affections but also the support from the Church members that doubt him as well. He completely changes his ways for the better, and he goes the extra mile to help Shelley and her family in times of need. Personally, I was really rooting for him myself!

Ruthie and Charles: Charles and his family haven't grown up in the Mennonite Church, but they as they interact with the people and go to their Church services, they decide to join the Church and start living the Mennonite lifestyle. Some aspects are a little challenging for them to get used to; however, they are slowly welcoming the changes (ex. going from 3 cars to 1, not watching TV, and interacting more within the community and their neighbors). Ruthie, on the other hand, grew up Mennonite and when she starts talking with Charles, some of the church members are not happy about it and they are making their intentions known. They don't believe Charles and his family are joining the church for the right reasons. When troubles hit Charles and his family, those unhappy people start throwing accusations and assumptions around. Even though Ruthie's parents were unhappy with her talking to Charles at the beginning, as time goes on, Charles and his family show the Mennonite community the dedication they possess which in turn, help Ruthie decide what she is meant to do.

This book was very enlightening. I really enjoyed reading it! I learned that even with the challenges the people faced and the bumps in the road they encountered, they looked to the Church for guidance and healing. It really inspired me to also help those in need, and to be more selfless :)


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