Jeanne Dennis and Sheila Seifert bring history to life in Marta’s Promise, the story of Marta Ebel, a young German woman orphaned by her parents. Marta subsequently finds herself on a ship to Russia, marrying a complete stranger, and caring for 5-year-old Hans Binz, while being completely unaware of the adventurous journey in her future.
As a German Protestant Reformer in 1766, Marta tries to escape the religious wars between the Reformers and the Catholic Papists in her homeland by immigrating illegally to Russia, which promises free land and few restrictions. She meets Carl Mueller, a handsome and mysterious man, who helps Hans and her throughout their passage to Russia by posing as Marta’s husband and Hans’ father.
Marta finds herself falling in love with Carl, despite his unexplained absences and somewhat deceptive character. Though traveling together, Marta and Carl independently come to discover the hope and love found through faith and the freedom that comes with it, bringing them together.
The characters in this novel are well-developed and multi-dimensional. The authors portray Carl and Marta’s conflicting inner emotions and thoughts well, making them realistic people to which readers can relate well. At first, the novel was slightly difficult to follow because, though written in English, some German words appear sporadically in character dialogue. There is a glossary at the back of the book defining many of these foreign words, but flipping back and forth between pages is somewhat disrupting to the story.
Since the novel is set in the 1700s, the dialogue is written in an older English style. This made the dialogue seem unrealistic at times because of its formality, especially when Hans, the 5-year-old, spoke this way. Formal language does not seem completely out of place in this novel, though, because of its historical setting. However, the usage of this language is sometimes inconsistent. For example, Hans says, “I cannot. It is too hard.” Here he does not speak in contractions, continuing the formal tone. In contrast, later in the novel Carl says, “No, I won’t. I can’t.” Contractions are used here, now changing the language to a more casual tone. These language issues, however, do not detract from the overall story, which is mostly driven by the intrigue of Carl and his secrets.
Marta’s Promise gives the reader a glimpse of what life was like for German immigrants during the relocation to Russia in the 1700s. This story is more than just historical fiction; it reveals the joy that comes from overcoming challenges and adversity that we all face. It is intriguing, bringing a message of hope and faith that will keep the pages turning until the satisfying end. – Christy Wong, Christian Book Previews.com
As crushing tyranny overwhelms Germany, Marta Ebel accepts the promise of a better future in Russia. Joined by Herr Carl Mueller and five-year-old Hans Binz on the journey, the three travelers look the part of a family—a "coincidence" that enables them to cross Russia's border. A story of courage, Marta's Promise pays tribute to the German pioneers who forged new lives in a foreign land, and gives greater meaning to trusting in God's providence.