Caleb has lived in two worlds, both the Amish and the Englisch, and to some degree he feels he doesn't fit in either one. His father is the bishop of the local Amish congregation and when Caleb comes home, he is distrusting of Caleb's motives.
Caleb's life was a parable--he lived happily at home until he finished school and with his rumspringe years, he decided to see what the Englisch world had to offer. For five years, he lived and worked as an Englisch person, denying all he'd been brought up to believe and all the ways he'd been taught to behave. He came home with an ugly tattoo, a contrite heart, and guilt for his actions.
There is one person in his community who believes in him, and that's Josie. She's loved Caleb since she was a young school girl, but Caleb's guilt keeps him from allowing himself to love her back. He feels so unworthy of her.
I've been where Caleb is in the book--so bent down with guilt that I couldn't see what God did for me through His Son. I've let the guilt tear me up inside, and it all comes to the realization that my guilt held me hostage to an unforgiving heart. Once I was able to let it go, I realized I was holding myself to be more righteous than God by not forgiving myself, AND, I was rejecting God by rejecting His forgiveness--piling sin upon sin.
Mary Ellis has written a book that resonated with me in ways I never anticipated, and for that reason alone, I'd give A Plain Man five stars and two thumbs up! But, she has put together a story with warts: Josie has a sister who fights with her out of jealousy, Caleb has a father who watches for any misstep and rides Caleb like a horse, the two of them can't make a meeting of the minds for anything. Mary's writing flows naturally along the journey Caleb and Josie are taking, and just as naturally brings them together in a way that satisfies the reader's desire for the both of them. It's hard not to become connected to both Caleb and Josie and it's hard not to root for them all the way through the book. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a delicious serving of Josie's four-bean salad.