Title: Returning Home
Author: Loreen Plett
Major Themes: Gypsies, Mennonites, Prussia, Russia
Synopsis: Johann Plett’s life was one long series of disasters and disappointments; what would it take to turn his heart to God?
This is quite the story. It was given to one of my sons several months ago, for Christmas, and I’ve been looking forward to reading it. Now I’m wondering why I waited so long! Someone asked me, while I was reading it, what it was like. I answered that it was almost an epic novel—but a true story!
Returning Home tells the story of Johann Plett’s life; he was an ancestor of author Loreen Plett. A good part of this story is documented in family records. Johann was born in Prussia in 1765 to a wealthy Mennonite family. He saw his father’s obsession with money and wealth, and determined that he would never be like that. Against his father’s wishes, he married a poor, sweet girl, only to meet tragedy soon after. Within a short time, he fell in love with a servant of the family, a beautiful young woman who had converted from her Lutheran family’s faith to the Mennonite church, and the day after their quiet wedding the young couple was forced to leave Johann’s family’s farm. One of their few possessions was a Bible which had been given to Johann by a rare Godly preacher. For a time, the young couple read the Bible together daily, but as time went on Johann allowed himself to become bitter towards his father and the corruption he saw in the Mennonite church. One disaster after another struck the family. What would it take to turn Johann’s heart back to God?
I could hardly put this book down. There was just enough suspense all the way through to keep me turning the pages to find out what happened next. I appreciated the historical value of this book, as well. I couldn’t believe the depths to which the Mennonite church in Prussia had fallen, only a couple hundred years after the Reformation. The political situation was interesting, as well, as Napoleon and Russia struggled for control of Prussia. The Gypsies also add interest to the story, and I was quite interested in Catherine the Great’s invitation to the Mennonites to move to Russia.
I highly recommend Returning Home for anyone who enjoys a good story, or a historical story, and it would make a great family read-aloud as well. I hope I can find the time to read it to my family soon! I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Crossing the Distance, now.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults