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Crossing the Distance

post written by Emma Filbrun

Crossing the Distance by Loreen PlettTitle: Crossing the Distance
Author: Loreen Plett
Major Themes: Canada, Crimean War, Kleine Gemeinde, Mennonites, Russia
Synopsis: All his life, Knals Plett stands up for the truth as God uses his forceful personality to strengthen the Mennonites in Russia and Canada.

Crossing the Distance is a great book. I read Returning Home recently; this is the sequel, and is every bit as good. Returning Home tells the story of Johann Plett; Crossing the Distance follows his son Cornelius, called Knals in their Plattdeutsch dialect. Both books are based very strongly on the author’s family history.

Knals Plett, age 16, and his younger sister Karolina, live with their Mam in the beginning of the story. Knals’s strong, forceful personality often causes arguments between himself and his sister. Mam is hard to live with, as well; she believes that God cannot forgive her for mistreating her stepdaughter many years ago in Prussia before the family moved to Russia. When the stress becomes too great, she goes behind the barn and mutilates herself.

Eventually, after the little family has to sell their farm because they can’t pay for it, Knals goes to work for a wagonmaker and marries his boss’s daughter. She has been reaching out to the Russian people around them, but is frustrated that the Mennonites are not allowed to receive the Russians into their church. Knals shares this frustration, and works to change the rule. His forceful personality causes problems at times, but God continues to work in his heart to help him watch his words. One time, however, his temper gets the best of him, and the anger he has allowed to simmer in his heart for many years toward a Russian servant girl causes him to do a horrific deed that he never imagined he would. His witness to the Russians is damaged—but will God be able to use this terrible sin for good?

As you read Crossing the Distance, you will learn a lot about the Mennonites in Russia, especially the Kleine Gemeinde group. You will also get a slightly different look at the Crimean War, and catch a glimpse of the Mennonite’s immigration from Russia to Canada in the 1870s. Most of all, however, you will be challenged to look at your walk with God, your relationship with other people, and your relationship with your church. Knals Plett made a lot of mistakes, but he eventually made things right with those he wronged. Whether you agree with his stands or not, you will be encouraged and challenged by reading this book.

WARNING: You may want to preread chapters 6 and 8 before giving this book to your children. Mentions are made of a brutal whipping and of the temptations men faced when delivering food to the Russian army in the Crimea.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults


Links to buy Crossing the Distance:

Amazon: Paperback

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Christian Light Publications: Paperback


Canada, Crimean War, Kleine Gemeinde, Mennonites, Russia

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