Sound of Distant Thunder
by Jan Drexler presents a unique look at the Amish society.
This first in a series uses the backdrop of the Civil War
as the characters struggle to reconcile their convictions
and desires with the national interest.
Jan Drexler brings an understanding of Amish traditions and
beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first
Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania
in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for
her stories. She takes the saying, “write what you know,”
to a whole new level.
She commented, “My ancestors were Amish. Also, I lived
in Indiana and they were part of the community so I grew up
with them. I think my experiences mostly came from the stories
my family told. I explored why we were not Amish anymore.
I took a journey into my heritage with the stories growing
out of that.”
The story explores two divisions, North versus South during
America’s Civil War, and the Amish Church, Mennonite
versus the Old Order Amish. Through the hero Jonas’
eyes, readers see his struggles with his own principles, beliefs
and how these affect his life.Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken
in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of
anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the
teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes
up on the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's
place. But this means Jonas must put on hold his commitment
to marry his long-time love, Katie Stuckey.
“I wrote the Civil War as more of a background. In specific
situations, the characters interact with the Civil War, but
are not immersed in it, except for Jonas, who was stubborn,
intelligent, stoic, and caring, with a softness of heart.
I hoped I showed how men 18 to 22 years of age were looking
for an adventure. They really believed it would not last more
than three months. I read numerous diary entries from that
era where boys told their parents, ‘I have to join up
now because I do not want to miss out.’
The Amish would be considered conscientious objectors today.
The story has the real-life Ohio Congressman who was able
to get passed that the non-resistance religions could hire
someone to take their place or pay a fee that would go to
the war effort. Survivor’s guilt is emphasized with
the book quote, ““If I pay the fee, I’m
showing them that my life is more important to me than another
Drexler noted, “While doing my research I actually read
about a man who did hire someone to take his place. Subsequently
that person was killed and the man had a very hard time living
with that guilt. They struggled because of their views, since
they were non-resistant. As with the Quakers, they thought
killing is wrong. But Jonas questions if there is a justification
for war during certain circumstances. Most of the “English”
world would say they have an equal allegiance to G-d and country,
but the Amish feel their allegiance to G-d comes first. People
could not conceive that someone would not support their country
by fighting. Even during the Revolutionary War the Amish had
problems because people thought if they did not want to fight
they must be Tories.”
As readers turn the pages they seek answers to the questions,
will the relationship survive the separation and how will
Jonas be viewed in this pacifist Church? Amish traditions
and beliefs are brought to the forefront with the Civil War
as a backdrop.