Promise to Return

A Novel

Promise to Return

When World War II breaks out, Miriam’s fiancé, Henry, is drafted and sent to a conscientious objector camp. But when Henry feels called to fight on the front lines, he goes against the Amish church to follow God’s will—forcing Miriam to choose between the rules of her religion and the leading of her heart.

When World War II breaks out, Miriam Coblentz’s peaceful Amish world is turned upside down...

It’s 1943, and Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are nearing their wed­ding day when the unthinkable happens—Henry is drafted. However, since he is a part of the pacifist Amish tradition, Henry is sent to a conscientious objector Civilian Public Service camp. When he leaves for the work camp, his gaping absence turns Miriam’s life upside down. Little does she know it’s only the beginning... When Henry returns home, he brings news that shakes Miriam and their Amish community to the core. Henry believes God has called him to enlist in the army and fight for his country, leaving her to make an impor­tant decision: whether to choose loyalty to the peaceful life she’s always known or her love for Henry. Two worlds collide in this unforgettable debut novel, providing a fasci­nating and rare look into Amish culture during World War II. While Henry is battling enemies across the ocean, Miriam struggles between her devotion to Henry and her love of the Amish way of life. One question is at the bottom of it all: will she follow the rules of her religion or the leading of her heart?
  • Howard Books | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476735016 | 
  • October 2013
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Promise to Return includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Elizabeth Byler Younts. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Miriam Coblentz and Henry Mast are a young Amish couple in love, yet to be wed, living during the time of World War II. Their dreams of marriage and a family are put on hold when Henry is recruited. Initially Henry serves as a conscientious objector at a Civilian Public Service camp, while Miriam waits longingly for him to return. And he does, except as a changed man. Henry enlists in the army, going against their Amish ways, believing that God has called him to fight in the war.

Miriam is left to decide between loyalty to her church, beliefs, and parents or the young man who holds her heart. A physical war sets a context for a journey of faith, love, and loss as a young Amish woman battles her own internal war for the man she loves.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Did you grow up in a faith tradition? What are the benefits of being in community, be it faith-based or not? What would you define as your present community?
2. Henry see more

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About the Author

Elizabeth Byler Younts
Photograph © Esther M. Byler

Elizabeth Byler Younts

Elizabeth Byler Younts is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She was Amish as a child and after her parents left the church she still grew up among her Amish family and continues to speak Pennsylvania Dutch. She lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.