Book review: The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim

When I was reading the acknowledgments in this book, I thought, “Oh, no” (the acknowledgments were in the beginning rather than at the end of the book).  I don’t mind religious books as long as they’re obviously religious and not preachy.  I hate it when I think I’m reading an adventure book and end up reading about the virtues of Christianity/Buddhism/Islam/etc.

The Alliance was religious, but it wasn’t too preachy.  It certainly brought in Christian themes, but dealt with them in the context that some of the main characters are part of a Mennonite community.  The “alliance” refers to an alliance made between said Mennonite community and the “Englischer”s (people outside of the community).  An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) causes all modern equipment to stop working, stranding some Englischers in the Mennonite community and causing a plane crash.  The pilot of the plane crash, Moses, survives and develops some romantic feelings for Leora, a Mennonite girl.

The EMP causes apocalyptic conditions so everyone in the community compromises and agrees that the Englischers will guard a border around the community and, in turn, the community will house and feed the Englischers.

Moses and Leora’s love story is fraught with conflict, externally and internally.  Externally, they have to confront threats of looting and starvation.  Internally, they struggle with their difference in beliefs.  Leora believes if pacifism while Moses believes that guarding the border with guns is the only practical chance that they have of surviving.

The story is told in first-person narrative, switching off between Leora’s and Moses’ point of view.

The story itself, once you accept the hard-to-believe idea that an EMP could take out the entire world, is okay, but I had some issues with the characters.  The characters weren’t as well-developed as I would have liked.  Other than this good looks, it’s not too clear why Leora falls in love with Moses instead of Jabil, a young Mennonite man.  Jabil seems like the better man in pretty much all respects – they have similar beliefs, he cares for her (shielding her at one point with his body – something that Moses admits that he didn’t think of doing, etc.).  I get that sometimes people are shallow and go for good looks, but I had trouble seeing that someone who was so responsible like Leora, even though she was young, would toss caution to the wind to go for someone like Moses instead of Jabil.  Leora was responsible for taking care of a younger brother, a special needs sister, and a grandmother after her dad abandoned the family and her mom died.  Someone like that can’t afford to let herself fall for some unknown guy that she knows nothing about.  The book described some hesitations that Leora had, but she still chose Moses.  For me, the description of Leora’s past behavior and history were inconsistent with her current actions in the book so it was hard to get a good grasp of who she really was as a person.

I was also disappointed in Moses as a character.  He was also inconsistent.  At one point, he decides to protect Leora by keeping information from her because she already has had a lot to deal with but then he goes ahead and tells her about it anyway.  I guess the ending is where he is supposed to redeem himself, but it just wasn’t enough for me.  I didn’t particularly like him.

It’s not a bad book, but it seemed like it could have used more development.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book.

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