"A young mother returns to the Mennonite village she fled and finds family and forgiveness"
Reviewed by Patricia Woodside
Posted July 25, 2012
Inspirational Amish | Inspirational
Lizzie Engel ran away from home as a teen because of her
pregnancy and the attitudes of the people in her small
Mennonite town. Now she's running back home because she's
been fired, falsely accused and is being stalked. But
Lizzie has no idea what to expect when she returns, along
with her young daughter, to Kingdom, the one place to which
she thought she'd never return.
Lizzie finds Kingdom is everything—and nothing—that she
remembers. Some people are still pretty closed-minded while
others are more progressive than she ever would have
imagined. As she begins to settle in and rediscover not
only the town but her faith, Lizzie is constantly reminded
of the lurking danger that followed her home.
INESCAPABLE is part suspense and part romance. It's also
part women's fiction as Nancy Mehl draws a realistic picture
of a young mother, a woman still searching for her place in
the world as an adult even as she is responsible for a
child. In Kingdom, old hurts and old feelings color
Lizzie's perceptions of people and circumstances, but over
time, she begins to see how her immaturity years ago may
have heightened her sensitivity and blinded her to the full
context underlying the actions of others.
This is a story about family and forgiveness. There's a
simplicity in the prose that mirrors the simplicity of the
Mennonite faith. However, both are more complex than they
appear on the surface. Where Mehl's writing soars is in the
narrative, her descriptions of setting, characters, and even
the Mennonite faith, those descriptions vivid and easy to
Mehl is definitely a storyteller, able to wind the multiple
threads of the story into a tightly wrapped and satisfying
climax while keeping the readers largely guessing until the
Fans of Amish and Mennonite fiction will enjoy INESCAPABLE.
Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left
her Mennonite hometown, Kingdom, Kansas, with plans never to
But five years later, the new life she built is falling
apart. Lizzie knows she's being followed, and she's certain
the same mysterious stranger is behind the threatening
letters she's received. Realizing she'll have to run again,
the only escape Lizzie can manage is a return to the last
place she wants to go.
Once she arrives in Kingdom, Lizzie is confident she'll be
safe until she comes up with a new plan. In reacquainting
herself with the town and its people—especially her old
friend, Noah Housler—she wonders if she judged her hometown
and her Mennonite faith too harshly. However, just as she
begins to come to terms with her roots, Lizzie is horrified
to discover the danger she ran from is closer than ever.
No longer sure who to trust and fearful for her life and the
lives of those around her, Lizzie finds she has only one
place left to run—to the Father whose love is inescapable.
For the third night in a row the man stood under the
streetlight, staring up at our apartment, his face hidden
by a red ball cap pulled down to just above his eyes. I
closed the curtain, trying to keep my movement slow so he
wouldn't notice me watching him. But I couldn't keep my
fingers from trembling.
"What's the matter, Mama?"
I turned to smile at Charity. Though only six, she knew
when I was worried or afraid. Unfortunately, there'd been a
lot of that lately.
"Nothing, honey. Did you finish your carrots?"
She grimaced. "They're too gooshy tonight."
I sighed and came back to the table, trying not to let
her see my fear. "They're supposed to be gooshy. I cooked
She wrinkled her button nose. "I like them hard. You
"You eat those carrots, Charity Lynn Engel. Right now."
I hadn't meant to sound harsh, but the strain I was
under had frayed my nerves. Her dark eyes grew wide.
"Are you mad at me, Mama?" She sniffed a couple of
times, jabbed at her carrots with her fork, and stuck them
into her mouth.
I pushed myself up from my chair, intending to put my
arms around my small daughter and soothe her hurt feelings.
But when I put my hand on the surface of our secondhand
kitchen table, it wobbled horribly. Charity's glass of milk
started to slide, and I barely caught it before it tipped
over. I looked down and found that the paperback book I'd
used to balance the table legs had slipped out again. I
kicked it back under the uneven leg and went to hug Charity.
"I'm sorry, Cherry Bear," I said. "You don't have to eat
the carrots if you don't want to."
She held out her soft, chubby little–girl
arms. "It's okay, Mama. They're not really, really bad.
Just kinda bad."
I stroked her soft black curls while I gazed around our
small apartment. It wasn't fancy, but it had been home.
Unfortunately, that wouldn't last much longer. I let go of
Charity and forced a smile. "How about a fudge bar, honey?"
She looked up at me in wonder. "Instead of carrots?"
"Yes, instead of carrots."
She giggled, any trace of injured feelings gone like
smoke in the wind. If only I could dismiss my own concerns
so easily. She jumped down from her chair and skipped over
to the refrigerator. "Can I have both halves?"
I usually broke the ice cream treat in two, not wanting
her to eat too much sugar before bed. But tonight I didn't
care. I reached into the small freezer and pulled a fudge
bar out of the box, handing it to her without comment.
"Oh, boy. Thanks, Mama. Can I watch Dora the Explorer
for a while before I hafta go to bed?"
I glanced at the clock. "You have thirty minutes, but
when I say it's time to turn off the TV, no arguing.
She bobbed her little head up and down with
I waved her on, and she scurried into the living room
before I could change my mind. Not long after we moved in,
I purchased a secondhand TV and a DVD player. We couldn't
afford cable, but I'd found a stack of children's DVDs at a
yard sale during the summer. At fifty cents each, they
provided my daughter with hours of entertainment. Best ten
dollars I'd ever spent. As soon as I heard the TV come on,
I grabbed my cell phone out of my purse, which was on the
kitchen counter. Meghan answered after the fourth ring.
"It's me," I said.
"Oh, Lizzie. I tried to call you earlier, but I guess
you weren't home."
"I guess not," I said, trying to sound nonchalant. Not
easy to do when you're lying. I'd been too upset to talk on
the phone. It wasn't easy now, but I knew I'd have to face
"I still can't believe it," she said. "You've been such
an asset at Harbor House. If Sylvia was still here—"
"But she's not. Reba's been almost impossible to work
with from day one, but her attitude got really bad after
her boyfriend showed a little too much interest in me."
Sylvia Martinez had been the director of Harbor House, a
shelter for abused women, for twenty years. But after her
second heart attack, she finally took her doctor's advice
and resigned. Reba, her temporary replacement, didn't get
along with anyone at the shelter, but she'd been treating
me particularly bad ever since her city council boyfriend,
James Webb, picked her up from work one night. There had
been rumors about his ethics and
under–the–table deals for as long as I'd been
at Harbor House, and Meghan and I were pretty sure he was
responsible for getting Reba the interim director's
position. The evening Reba reluctantly introduced him to
me, his eyes had lingered on me a little too long,
traveling slowly up and down my body. By the next morning,
Reba's already rancorous attitude toward me had turned
toxic. Today, she'd finally taken revenge.
"If it helps, everyone knows you didn't steal that
"Well, I'm glad, but if she presses charges . . ."
Meghan gasped. "But she can't. There isn't any proof."
"The money's gone, Meghan. Over a thousand dollars out
of petty cash. And Reba and I are the only ones with
access. She showed me the books. They reveal months of
bogus withdrawals with my initials by each and every
transaction. Whoever copied my writing did a pretty good
job. At first, even I thought it was genuine."
Meghan snorted. "I suppose the fact that Reba used to be
an accountant and knows exactly how to doctor the records
doesn't enter into this at all."
I sighed. "No, it doesn't, because I can't prove I
didn't take the money, and she can prove I did. If she
calls the authorities, I could lose Charity, and I won't
take that chance. Besides, without a job, I can't pay for
"You know that Jim and I would be happy to help you."
"Thank you, Meghan, but that won't solve my problems.
I've got to get away from here in case Reba pushes this
further. Besides, that man is still following me."
"No! Did you call the police?"
I sighed and glanced toward the kitchen window. Should I
risk another look? "I've given up on them. They've been out
here on four different occasions. The man is always gone by
the time they get here. Besides, all they ever do is
explain why they can't help me. It's not a crime to stand
outside on a public street."
"But what about the threatening notes?"
"They barely looked at them. Not enough to go on, they
said. If I find out who wrote them, then I'm supposed to
give them a call."
Meghan grunted. "Our tax dollars at work." She paused a
moment. "You're certain you have no clue who this guy is or
why he's sending these notes?"
"I've racked my brain, and I can't figure it out. He
can't be the husband of a client, because I don't work
directly with the clients."
"I know you're not dating right now, but what about
someone in the past? A man you don't see anymore?"
"No one who would be doing something like this." I took
a deep breath and let the air out slowly. "I've got to get
away from here, Meghan. I have no choice."
"But . . . but where will you go?"
I bit my lower lip, not wanting to say the words out
loud. Meghan noticed my hesitation.
"Oh, Lizzie. No. You can't go back to . . . to Kingdom."
"There's no other option open to me. At least no one can
find us there. Listen, you can't tell Reba where I am,
Meghan. I mean it."
She laughed. "I couldn't, even if I wanted to. I have no
idea where Kingdom is. Besides, didn't you say that its
location is so remote even people who live in the area have
a hard time finding it?"
My mind was spinning, trying to find another way out.
Kingdom, Kansas, was the last place in the world I wanted
to be. I'd grown used to living in Kansas City. Going back
to a town of barely three hundred people would certainly
cause severe culture shock. Unfortunately, there didn't
seem to be any other answer. We had to find someplace safe,
away from Reba and from the man in the red cap who had been
stalking us for the past few weeks.
The man had never approached us. But right after he
first appeared, the notes had started coming. Although I
couldn't prove he was sending them, it just made sense.
What I couldn't figure out was what he wanted beyond trying
to frighten me. The police informed me that his behavior
wasn't all that unusual for a stalker and cautioned me to
stay away from him. Great advice. Of course I was trying to
avoid him. But I worried he would get bolder and follow
through on his threats.
"What about your degree, Lizzie?"
I glanced over at my ancient computer, my college books
stacked up next to it. "I won't be able to work on it in
Kingdom. Kinda hard to take online courses in a town
without electricity." I suddenly became aware that I was
twirling my hair around my finger and immediately let it
go. My mother's voice echoed softly in my head. "Leave your
hair alone, Elizabeth Lynn. You want your father to shave
your head? He will, you know. He says a woman's hair is her
vanity." A feeling of shame washed through me. I angrily
pushed it away.
"When will you leave?" Meghan asked.
"As soon as I can. I've got to talk to my landlady. My
lease isn't up for another couple of months. I hope she
doesn't try to hold me to it."
"I'm sorry, Lizzie. You shouldn't have to deal with all
this. You're a good person who deserves better. I wish I
could help you."
I rubbed my eyes with my other hand as weariness seeped
through my body. "Hey, just having someone to talk to makes
a big difference. I know you're busy with the kids and all.
Jim is probably getting really tired of me."
She chuckled. "Yeah, he's so tired of you he offered to
wait outside your apartment and beat the crud out of your
friend in the red cap. He's as concerned as I am."
"I guess you've got the only good guy in the entire
world," I said, sighing. "I'd better get going. I have a
lot of planning and packing to do, and I'm almost asleep on
"Promise me you'll call me before you leave. Don't
dis–appear without saying good–bye."
"I promise, Meghan. You're my best friend. In fact,
you're pretty much my only friend."
"Good night, Lizzie."
I said good–bye and hung up the phone. Then I
carried it back to the counter and plugged it into its
charger. After that I watched the rest of Charity's DVD,
even though I couldn't concentrate on it at all. When it
was over, I helped her get ready for bed. We shared a
bedroom, but that didn't bother me. I liked having her
near. Her soft snoring at night lulled me to sleep. It was
the one time of the day I didn't worry about her.
I made a cup of tea and sat down on the couch, gazing
around our small apartment. I'd really believed Charity and
I would spend many years in Kansas City. Although our start
had been rough, life had gradually improved.
The first job I landed here was at Betty's Café, a small
greasy spoon down the street. I didn't have a car, but it
was within walking distance. Betty, an older woman with a
drinking problem, taught me the business from the ground
up. I'd been hired as a waitress, but many times she didn't
come to work, saying she was "sick." It didn't take long
before I was able to run the place by myself.
Then one day, Sylvia came in to eat. We bonded
immediately. She was really interested in me, and I poured
out my story between slinging hamburgers and serving
coffee. Not long after that, she offered me a job. I gave
my notice to Betty and started at Harbor House two weeks
later. I'd been there for the past four years and, until
Sylvia's heart attack, had finally begun to feel hopeful
about the future. That hope was shattered and lying in so
many pieces that no one could possibly glue it back
together. Why had I allowed myself to think things could
ever be good in my life? Being positive had only set me up
for disappointment. I wouldn't make that mistake again.
As I tried to figure out my next move, a familiar
feeling of fear wriggled around inside me and wouldn't be
What do you think about this review?
No comments posted.
Registered users may leave comments.
Log in or register now!