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HIS FUTURE WAS "OUT THERE" - COULD HE BREAK FREE?
It is the summer of 1965, and Nick Baarda is facing his final year of high school in New Holland, Iowa, where a sect called the True Church is so strict that it has added four commandments to the original ten. The add-ons prohibit “worldly amusements” like movies and popular music. Hoping to break free of these constraints and enjoy modern life, Nick and his best friends devise a fifteenth commandment, one that allows them to live as if the others need not apply to them. This sets in motion an extended battle with their new minister, who maneuvers to keep the boys firmly under his thumb. Complicating things is the pastor’s daughter, who gladly becomes Nick’s intellectual soulmate while not reciprocating his romantic overtures. The result for Nick is a roller coaster of infatuation and frustration, while he and the other boys share raucous adventures and deal with sex, conflict, and calamity. Through it all, Nick wrestles with the hypocrisy he sees in his religion, and eventually he is forced to make a life-changing decision.
Steve Sieberson’s debut novel takes a deep dive into Red State, Evangelical America in the Sixties. Firmly anchored in a Dutch Calvinist farming community, the book explores the role of strict religion and conservative attitudes in a rapidly changing society, and how young people find themselves torn between the world of their heritage and the lure of a very different future.
The Fifteenth Commandment will appeal to anyone who came of age in the Sixties, and to their children and grandchildren who have heard so much about that era. It will also resonate with anyone who at some point in their life has struggled with the strictures of their society. That said, this is a highly entertaining story with colorful characters, vivid settings, and lively humor. It will delight the reader who appreciates good storytelling.
Advance Praise for The Fifteenth Commandment
“Few people can write both honestly and vividly about their home scene and its history. I know the world that Steve Sieberson portrays in The Fifteenth Commandment. His writing is astonishingly accurate and vivid. Both insiders and outsiders will take pleasure in this richly revealing account of us Dutch Calvinists in Northwest Iowa.”
--Jim Heynen, award-winning writer of poems, novels, nonfiction, and short fiction
“The Fifteenth Commandment is an insightful, alluring narrative—the kind of book you read in only two or three sittings. Sieberson’s voice is both artful and honest, and his characters, as they slowly reveal themselves, show us what it means to be alive in our world. A propitious debut novel.”
--David Philip Mullins, author of The Brightest Place in the World
“The Fifteenth Commandment portrays youthful rebellion, awakening sexuality, and the characters' growing awareness of their mortality, as well as how communities can create and then alienate some of the best and the brightest of the next generation. This coming-of-age novel is full of adventures and pranks, but it is also keenly aware of the cost of staying or leaving.”
--James Vanden Bosch, Emeritus Professor of English at Calvin University