Molly Zook is used to controlling her environment, which is a polite way of saying she can be bossy. She manages the house and farm well. Ever since her father’s sudden death from a heart attack 2 months ago, however, she’s felt things spinning out of control. Thanks to the economic downturn, the farm isn’t doing well, and her mother is showing some alarming signs of short-term memory loss and lack of balance. She’s never been one to interfere too much in Molly’s life, but she suggests that Molly marry Mervin, one of the twin boys from a neighbouring farm, which would add needed acreage to their farm and save them from losing it. But Molly doesn’t love him. Besides, he was courting her best friend, Hannah, although they’ve had their ups and downs.
Visiting Hannah, Molly meets a new horse trainer, a tall handsome man in a cowboy hat from Montana named Leon. Literally week-kneed at the sight of him, she finds herself losing her heart quickly. When the four of them and some other friends plan a camping trip, things come to a head. Leon and Hannah head off into the woods, and Molly sends Mervin in pursuit, and then follows herself. Molly is pretty sure that Hannah and Leon are in love now, but Hannah is convinced Molly has put them both up to it, and that all 3 are mocking her. As a terrific storm bursts overhead, Hannah gets lost in the woods.
Minding Molly follows the basic outlines of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, and it’s fun to recognize various elements–the marriage of Bob and Nan, a respected older couple who are leaders in the community, the constant star-crossing of the 2 sets of lovers. No need of actual fairies–the insecurities of young women are enough to cause lots of mix-ups and crossed lines.
Gould’s gift is to present flawed characters and help us see not only their point of view, but how others see them as well. And so we feel Molly’s pain and insecurity while at the same time recognizing how her need for control is driving those around her crazy.
Minding Molly is the 3rd in the series The Courtships of Lancaster County, and the characters repeat although each book can be read separately. The series takes various Shakespearean comedies and places them in modern Amish families, which is a brilliant idea as in many ways, especially as the values and cultural mores of Shakespearean times mesh well with modern Amish families.