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Jacob Hochstetler lives peacefully with his Amish family at the foot of the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. His beliefs are severely tested one night in September 1757, after a raid on the Amish settlement near Northkill Creek leaves his wife, daughter, and a son dead, and their home in ashes. Jacob and two teenage sons are captured and taken to different Lenapi Indian villages, unsure of their fate. After a long, hard winter in the Lenapi village, Jacob makes a harrowing escape downriver and returns home to Northkill, only to find all that he has known and loved are gone. Will Jacob and his sons ever be reunited? Can Jacob find romance, reconciliation, and happiness amidst the ashes of his former home?

350 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2013

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About the author

Ervin R. Stutzman

14 books20 followers
Ervin Stutzman is currently Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA.

Before taking on this role in January 2010, he served for nearly 12 years as Dean and Professor of Church Ministries at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va. He has also served the Mennonite Church in the roles of pastor, district overseer, missions administrator, conference moderator and, from 2001 to 2003, as moderator for Mennonite Church USA.

Ervin graduated with a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He holds master's degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University. His master's thesis at Eastern Mennonite Seminary was "Biblical Interpretation in the Free Church: Appropriating Scriptural Truth Through Communal Discernment." For his doctoral dissertation he wrote "From Nonresistance to Peace and Justice: Mennonite Peace Rhetoric, 1951-1991."

Ervin was born a twin into an Amish home in Kalona, Iowa. After his father's death a few years later, his mother moved the family to her home community near Hutchinson, Kan. Ervin was baptized in the Center Amish Mennonite Church near Partridge. Later, he joined the Yoder Mennonite Church. Ervin married Bonita Haldeman of Manheim, Pa. Together they served for five years with Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Cincinnati, part of that time in voluntary service. Ervin was ordained to serve as co-pastor of Mennonite Christian Assembly. From there, the Stutzmans moved to Pennsylvania, where they were members of the Mount Joy Mennonite Church. They currently live in Harrisonburg, Va., and are members of Park View Mennonite Church, where Ervin regularly teaches a men's Bible study.

Ervin is a preacher, teacher and writer. His Herald Press publications include Being God's People, a study for new believers, Creating Communities of the Kingdom (co-authored with David Shenk), Welcome!, a book encouraging the church to welcome new members, Tobias of the Amish, a story of his father's life and community, and Emma, A Widow Among the Amish, the story of his mother.


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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,079 reviews712 followers
August 7, 2019
This novel is based on the true story of my ancestor, Jacob Hochstetler, who emigrated from Alsace in 1738 and settled on a farm with his family in the eastern edge of the colonial Province of Pennsylvania (today about a mile west of the present day village of Shartlesville, in Upper Bern Township, Berks Co., Pa).

He was Amish—an anabaptist Christian sect—and the area where his family settled was an Amish community with neighbors of the same faith. The community thrived and by the time of this story in 1757 two of the oldest of his six children—a son and a daughter—were married and living on neighboring farms with their own families. The family remaining at home at this time consisted of his wife, three sons, and one daughter.

Unfortunately, their community was located on the western fringes of European settlements and lay at the foot of the wooded Blue Mountain range which was the edge of Indian territory. Thus when the French and Indian War began in 1754 their community was vulnerable to attack.

On the evening of September 19, 1757 their house was attacked by the Indians and set on fire. The family managed to hold out until morning by retreating to the cellar. But upon their exit in the morning they were captured. The wife, daughter and one son were killed. Jacob and two sons were taken captive by the Indians.

This book is the story of Jacob and his experience as an Indian captive and his subsequent escape after about a year. This book is the first of a planned trilogy, and the next two books will tell the stories of the two sons whose time living with the Indians lasted much longer.

Today Hochstetler is regarded as a hero among Amish and Mennonites because of his nonresistant response to an Indian attack on his home. He refused to let his teenaged sons shoot at the Indians in self defense. One of the surviving sons later in life indicated that he believed that he and his brother--both skilled hunters--could have successfully defended the family if they had been allowed to use their guns.

All known facts of Jacob's life could probably fit on a couple pages of text that would provide the barest outline of his life. The author of this book has creatively managed to fill in the details of Jacob's life from historical sources of that era and writing imaginative descriptions of family life, farm work, church meetings, personal feelings and even a love story to create a novel that captures the reader's interest.

I believe the author has provided a reasonably fair recognition of the humanity of the American Indian's side of this story even though their actions in this case were very cruel to Jacob's family. The author promises to tell more of the American Indian way of life in the next two planned books about the life of the two sons who continued to live with the Indians from many years. When they did return to the "white man's life" they did so with regret and reluctance—but their story is not contained in this first book.

Here's a link to my review of Joseph's Dilemma, the second book in the trilogy:

Here's a link to my review of Christian's Hope, the third book in the trilogy:
Profile Image for marcus miller.
473 reviews3 followers
February 18, 2014
The story of the "Hochstetler Massacre" has been passed down through the generations, particularly by the many Amish and Mennonite descendants of Jacob Hochstetler. The basic outline of the story is that the Hochstetler family was attacked by a group of Native Americans. Jacob refuses to let his sons use their guns to defend the family. When the warriors set fire to the house, the family survives in the cellar by using cider to put out the flames. After some time the family escapes through a cellar window, but the mother becomes stuck. All the warriors but one have left and when he notices the family, he alerts the others. The end result is that Hochstetler and two of his sons are taken captive, while his wife and two children are killed.

Stutzman takes this outline and adds flesh to it by using the historical documentation available, by placing the attack in the broader geopolitical context of the conflicts between the British and the French, and by imagining what was going on in the minds of Hochstetler and his family. Stutzman refers to the incident as the "Hochstetler Attack" rather than massacre. When I heard this story as a youth I always wondered why the term massacre was used, especially after reading about Sand Creek, Wounded Knee and other incidents.

My guess is the book will find an eager audience among the many descendants of the Hochstetler's, especially those who are still Amish or Mennonite. After checking with my father, the family genealogist, I was told my roots go back to Hochstetler through at least two of his children about 10 generations back. I'm also connected to the character referred to as "Indian John" after he was shot and wounded by Indians.

The story is interesting and Stutzman tries to capture the flavor of the time, as well as to present the human side of the Native Americans who take Jacob captive. There are times when the book is a bit too preachy or overt in the messages about nonresistance and forgiveness. Yet when one reads the news about white men shooting unarmed teenagers, or the too numerous school shootings, this story about choosing not to defend oneself is important.

Profile Image for Christy.
684 reviews
September 29, 2015
This is a true account of the violent Indian attacks against the Amish Jacob Hochstetler family. A story based upon mostly factual events in 1757. It's hard to explain this read; it's not laced with as much happiness that I would normally read; but it was truly worth the read. It's a exceptional account of a period of time I was glad to learn more about; but also saddened that this took place. The details in this book are riveting; I often had to stop reading and soak up what I had just read and also prepare myself for what was to come next. This is the first book in a three part series; you don't get closure at the end of this book because the story is only beginning. There are moments of tenderness in this book that I did cherish and Jacob seemed like a remarkable man; one in which I would of liked to have known. This book has earned a place in my permanent library; a true testament to history. I often times forget the little details in books that I have read in the past but this book will be remembered for some time to come.
Profile Image for Samuel.
Author 7 books18 followers
April 14, 2014
I was somewhat disappointed in the novel. I have described it to friends as a "teaching novel." Part of the aim appears to be explaining Amish life in 18th century North America. The second aim is an explanation of Christian nonresistance in the Amish context. Both detract somewhat from the literary quality of the fiction.

I felt Jacob Hochstetler's struggles with his faith were too easily resolved. It felt like too much 20th or 21st century Mennonite theology was superimposed on an 18th century historical figure.

The maps and historical data provided in the expanded edition is quite helpful, though I'd suggest Our Flesh and Blood by Beth Hostetler Mark for the most detailed description of the available sources on Jacob Hochstetler and his experiences.
Profile Image for Lori.
1,701 reviews76 followers
July 1, 2017
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose out of the book of Romans.
This story talks about God's love, forgiveness, and it also talks about sharing.
Jacob is the true hero in this story. I just wanted to wrap my arms around him during his trials and tribulations that he went through in this book and "It will be ok and God will prevail.
I cried with Jacob in the middle of the story.
Jacob is the true hero of nonresistance and has learned many of life's lessons the hard way.
I have learned a few lessons from the Indians as well.
It's important to learn to share with others. It show the true nature of your heart. Even if you have very little the Indians still showed hospitality. I don't blame the Indians for being the way they were. They were here first. They were angry because the settlers were taking away what they thought were their lands.
I so enjoyed this story. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Amish/historical mixed.
I couldn't put this book down!
Life was much harder them than it is now. Each time I read a book like this, I often wonder how or what they would think of our world today?
I think I would like to go back to the 1700 to see what life was like then.
How awesome would it be to have everything at your disposal?
I interloaned this book from the public library
73 reviews
February 15, 2017
Although this book can be read and enjoyed on its own, I now definitely want to read the rest of the trilogy as soon as they are available. I feel that I am reading my family history as well as Stutzman's.
Profile Image for Peggy N.
119 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2014
I was very excited to get the opportunity to read Jacob's Choice by Ervin R. Stutzman as A Goodreads First Reads Winner. I received this author-signed book for free from Herald Press Publishing. I was interested in the book from the first page as I know very little about the life and beliefs of the Amish people and wanted to understand more of their beliefs in a nonresistance in the face of conflicts. The book is based on historic facts of the Jacob Hochstetler family who lived on the Pennsylvania frontier during the French and Indian Wars in the year of 1757. The family was involved in a Indian attack which found Jacob watching as his wife was stabbed and his son murdered, and both were scalped as he watched. His youngest daughter was killed out of his sight, but he knew she had been murdered when he recognized her pigtails on the scalp that one of the warriors was carrying. He and two of his sons were captured and taken by the Indians as they left they could see their home in flames. The story follows the struggles as Jacob continues in his faith in God and his non-resistance beliefs. His sons have not always shared their fathers beliefs and it is uncertain how the conflict would have ended if they had been allowed to shoot first as they had wanted or even if they were able to use the guns they had as a means of defense during the attack. Jacob had told his sons to stuff fruit in their pockets as they were leaving their homes as he was not sure what fate awaited them. He soon found that the Indians that had captured them was led by a white man, an army officer whose language he did not understand. He later learned that the Indians who had attacked them were following the orders of the French Soldiers.

He and the two sons traveled for about two weeks before they reached Fort Duquesne where they were separated and were taken to different destinations. They had given the fruit they had taken with them to an Indian Chief at the Fort and they were not tortured as some of the other prisoners. His compliant ways bought him favor with the Indians and he soon earned their trust. Some of the fellow prisoners who had been resistant were brutally murdered. This made him feel like the choices he had made were the right ones. After some time with the Indians they relaxed their guard with him and he at last escaped to try to travel back to his home at Northkill, where his two grown children and their families lived still he hoped.

The book follows his story of faith and conviction in his non-resistance beliefs as he returns home to try to rebuild his life. His reunion with his children and how he chooses to make his life after the attack, how he deals with the loss of his wife, and his feelings of what if anything he could have done differently bring a sadness to the story of loss and rebirth and of what he will never have again. It follows his efforts to move on and to bring his sons home. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good book with a personal look at someone who lives the convictions of his faith.
35 reviews5 followers
September 10, 2015
I was disappointed in the storytelling. Doubly disappointed, because I am a direct descendant of the protagonist, whose true-life adventure is the basis for the book's premise.

However, I will concede that there are good points to this historical novel. 1) It deals with the issue of non-resistance in a stark and realistic manner. Being a pacifist is not the easy way out. 2) It portrays the harsh world of life in the colonies during the French and Indian War, when terrorism was a constant threat. 3) The expanded edition has wonderful historical additions at the back of the book, complete with photos and maps.

The disappointment arises from the tediousness and sameness of a point of view told throughout the story. There are two 3rd person characters to move the story along, and they are both too slow and dispassionate for proper development of the tale. The two protagonists are the patriarch Jacob and his oldest daughter Barbara, both of whom are affected by their family tragedy, and both of whom respond for the most part in their pragmatic Amish farm worker way of viewing the world. Neither character is radically different from one another, in spite of the gender difference. I would have preferred the author to have brought in some color and diversity from the outside world, such as an exploration into the outlook of soldiers at the fort, French officers leading the raids, and tribal life from the viewpoint of the tribes themselves. Instead, everything is seen through the prism of Amish eyes.

Another complaint, though minor, is the lack of adequate proofreading. Towards the end of the book, I began to notice errors such as pronoun confusion, a wrong name, and punctuation mistakes.

I would only recommend the book to readers who are descendants of Jacob Hochstetler, and for that I would strongly advise them to purchase this expanded edition for the historical overview at the back of the book. There are not many families who have historical novels based on their ancestors, and for that I am appreciative.

Profile Image for Erin.
219 reviews22 followers
June 3, 2014
This book is based on actual events that happened in Pennsylvania, back in the mid 1700s, to the Hochstetler family. Jacob Hochstetler is an Amish pacifist. He does not believe in killing to defend himself or his family from the threat of Indians that have been attacking the locals. When his family is attacked and he is taken hostage, Jacob begins to question whether or not he did the right thing.

This was a story about an Amish man, the trials he encounters, and the beauty of forgiveness. I love that this book was based on fact. I also really enjoyed how in this book, one of the strong themes is forgiveness. It is key in being able to move forward in life, and God calls us to forgive those that have wronged us. That is a lot easier said than done which is shown as Jacob is reciting the Lord's Prayer and not feeling forgiveness for the ones who have killed his family. I found this book hard to put down, the author keeps you glued to the pages to find out what is going to happen next. This was the first book in a series and I can't wait to see what the next book will bring!

I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
54 reviews4 followers
May 18, 2014
The story of the Jacob Hochstetler family is based on real incidents of being held captive, surviving and escaping attacks during the French-Indian war. As a descendant of this Hostetler family tree, I've been familiar with this story as part of my family history. To be able to read a well-researched and well-written novel has been a great help to me in understanding the motivations and faith that are at the core of the decisions made by Jacob throughout the telling of his story.

Unlike so much of today's Amish fiction, this book rings true in the voices of the Amish characters and their actions and mindset. Descriptions of these mid-1700's Amish communities offers a realistic telling of life in the Pennsylvania wilderness during this time, and the struggles of these Amish immigrants to stay true to their beliefs. Glimpses of how the Amish communities interacted and supported each other during times of crisis is not so different than today.

Thank you Ervin, it is a delight to read Book 1 of the Trilogy. I'm looking forward to what is to come!
Profile Image for Lee.
37 reviews
February 12, 2015
At times, the story made you think about what could have been going on inside of the main character's head (in actual history) and that was an interesting exercise. In general, I would have liked more detail and further character development. The book seemed written at at level to possibly read to children. As an adult, I found that frustrating. Also, Jacob's Choice just sort of ends in the middle of the tale obviously to set up a sequel. This though reminds me of the recent 3 movie Hobbit series which probably had one movie too many in the series. Enjoyed reading the book mostly because of family connection to the story.
Profile Image for Alaina Maxam.
712 reviews41 followers
March 20, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. it was hard to put down. this is a book that follows a family that lives by simple rules and the trials that they go through to abide by their beliefs during the indian wars, I would definitely recommend this book.
Profile Image for Rebekah Miller.
79 reviews3 followers
February 1, 2021
I had a hard time getting into this book. As a member of the Amish/Mennonite community, I have heard the outline of this story many times since childhood. I felt the author set up the attack very well by giving background of what life would have looked like in the small Amish community in 1757. But I waited through all of that setting work with baited breath. I knew the attack would come. It did, and it was gruesome.

Once I got past the attack on Jacob Hochstetler and his family, I became very interested in the book. The descriptions of what Native American life may have been like, along with how Jacob may have felt as he pondered how his actions had affected his family gripped me.

Jacob and the Amish adhered to the practice and belief of nonresistance--the idea that Jesus wants his followers to die rather than kill their fellow man. Because of his beliefs, Jacob did not allow his sons to use their guns to harm the Indians when they came calling that September evening in 1757. Their cabin was set afire, and the family survived in the cellar, only to be discovered when trying to escape in the morning. Jacob's wife and son were killed and scalped, and his youngest daughter was also found and killed. Jacob and two sons were taken prisoner.

This story is told from Jacob's voice and also the voice of his oldest already married daughter, Barbara. Some tension arises as Barbara questions whether Jacob should have adhered to his nonresistance beliefs so tightly. And who wouldn't question when her mom was murdered?

The author gives historical background of the French and Indian War, which I had not connected to the Hochstetler Massacre before. Apparently, many family went through tragedy similar to the Hochstelters.

Some background on the Native American point of view is also given. If they used white prisoners as replacements for their lost family members, obviously they had endured losses as well.

I wonder what a conversation between Jacob Hochstelter and Caspar ten Boom (The Hiding Place) would sound like? Caspar famously told a pastor who reminded them that their activites in helping the Jews could bring death, "You say we could die for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could happen to my family." Granted, Jacob and his family were not protecting anyone, but both Jacob and Caspar made a choice that did result in death for their family.

Jacob's Choice ends with a cliffhanger. He returned home after almost a year of captivity, however, his sons did not. The book interested me enough that I want to read the next two books as well.
Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,600 reviews36 followers
October 4, 2016
Title: Jacob’s Choice (Return to Northkill #1)
Author: Ervin R. Stutzman
Pages: 350
Year: 2014
Publisher: Herald Press
My rating is 5 stars.
What a very interesting series! I absolutely became engrossed first by the story being set during the French & Indian War. Second, the novel is based on an actual person who lived during this time with the last name of Hochstetler. In the first book, we read the narrative through the point of view of the father named Jacob and his daughter Barbara.
Here is a story based on a man who is considered a hero among the Amish as he chose to stand firm on his nonresistant stance when facing danger, death and torture. In the story, we see the family face death, separation from each other and the community, yet holding out hope, both eternal and perhaps a reunion of family members taken captive.
It simply is stunning how Jacob stood firm in his stance even knowing that some if not all of the family would lose their lives. Whether one agrees with nonresistance or not, the fact remains his life challenges us today where many change beliefs like shifting sand. Reading the story from the father’s and one daughter’s view was intriguing as it shows how each felt, thought, and lived after the attack. There is tension between Jacob and Barbara for his beliefs, but Jacob holds firm. He loves his family, but he loves God more.
What a great series this is so far set in a time where life was precarious even without the attacks occurring. At the beginning, the author shares facts about the man and his family along with sources to read to learn more about the Native American issues. The book ends on a cliffhanger so I was glad that I had Joseph’s Dilemma, which is the next book in the series to read right away! The series ends with the final book titled, Christian’s Hope, so grab the books and enjoy!
Profile Image for Abigail E.
4 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2016
Undoubtedly, Jacob's Choice possesses good qualities, and I enjoyed the book and do not regret reading it, as it stimulated intellectual thoughts on non-resistance.

However, I docked my rating down to the three stars because the writing was...well, how do you put it? Simple, almost bland at times. The dialogue could be unrealistic and stilted. Now, don't get me wrong, simplistic books can be beautiful writing, concise and to the point, but the simplicity in this book was not to the story's advantage. My belief is that with some beautiful imagery and more complex sentences, this book could have hit a 4.5 star for me.

Nevertheless, Stutzman did a wonderful job conveying the struggles of an Amish man in the French and Indian war. He outlined things such as following your convictions from the Holy Spirit, the powerful impact of forgiveness, and martyrdom.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
679 reviews
September 21, 2014
This is a fictionalized account of a well known story of the Anabaptist faith in colonial America. The author, who is director of Mennonite Church USA, imbues the story with rich historical detail, suspense and compelling emotion. The characters are real and credible even when making extraordinary decisions. The author's ancestor Jacob Hostetler chooses the path of Christian non-resistance during the French and Indian War, which leads to death and capture of his family members. There is also wisdom in this story and its treatment of war and Native Americans that can transfer into and inform our own context. I was moved by this book; by how it tells this story of the faith and what it shares about Ervin Stutzman, a denominational leader.
Profile Image for Massanutten Regional Library.
2,882 reviews55 followers
June 24, 2016
Lois, North River patron, June 2016, 5 stars:

Mesmerizing story of an Amish man who was captured by the Indians in the 1700s; part of his family, his wife, young son and daughter were massacred, and he and his two sons were taken to separate villages. Months later he managed to escape, still not knowing the whereabouts of his sons. In spite of this, Jacob struggles with, and hangs on to themes of nonviolence and forgiveness. An amazing historical fiction story that has much to teach us about the power of our thoughts, our faith, and resilience!!
91 reviews
July 29, 2014
the love of this family and the pain endured in living by their principles in their following Jesus, is evident.
296 reviews10 followers
April 30, 2017
We never really realize what some of the early settlers in our land really went through. For the gentle Amish to be killed by the Indians was one thing, but so often the Indians were pushed to do these things for the British or the French. A friend recommended this book since it is a real part of her own family history.
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