Author // Beverly Lewis
Published // 2013 Bethany House
|photo courtesy of goodreads.com|
In this delightful tale by Beverly Lewis, we get to see a glimpse of what it would be like to join an Amish community as an “Englisher.” For those of us who spend our days inundated by electricity and media and busyness, the simple, wholesome life of the Amish can seem quite appealing when we read about it in books. I am sure that I am not the only person who has read a story set in an Amish community and sort of wished I could live there with the characters. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not ready to trade in my cozy fall clothes and my curling iron, but a life without phones and Internet and cars, spent working the land and growing pure food and building a community with neighbors really does have a sort of desirable charm. Jennifer Burns certainly thinks so in this new story.
Jennifer never did quite fit in with her family or friends. She was always described as someone with “an old soul” and her love for simple life and vintage treasures eventually led her to Lancaster County, PA. It was there that she met Marnie, an Amish girl who lived there with her family, and the two began corresponding. Now Jennifer has made a life-altering decision. She has sold her car and almost all her possessions (she never did have a cell phone) and is moving to Hickory Hollow to join the Amish community there. Her pen-pal has arranged for a place for her to stay and be mentored during the time of her “proving” and everything seems like it’s going to go smoothly. While much of it does, Jennifer soon finds out that not all Amish are as accepting of her as her friend Marnie. The trials she faces vary from small to great and she still hasn’t told her family where she is. Will she be able to restore her relationship with her own family? Will the Amish people accept her? How is she going to be able to do what she wants to do if she has to carry the weight of secrets? And what of the young Amish bachelor (Andrew) who seems to have taken an interest in her?
When I first started reading this book, I thought that it moved along pretty slowly. I felt that I was reading so much about doing laundry and cooking food and doing routine chores…things that I find pretty uninteresting to read over and over again. I found that the characters were not especially likeable, with the exception of Andrew, who, it seemed, we rarely saw in the book. I wanted to see more interaction between Andrew and Jennifer and when their time together was so spread out and brief, I was kind of disappointed. That being said, I eventually realized that this book is not primarily about a love story. It is about a young woman learning a new culture and striving to navigate through her new life. The love story is only a secondary theme within the book…maybe not even that…maybe more of a filler. So as I was reading the book expecting it to be about how Jennifer fell in love with an Amish man and found her happily ever after, I was irritated that I didn’t get to see more of that happening. When I adjusted my mindset (and expectations) and realized that’s not what the story was primarily about, but was rather more of a bonus for Jenny, I found the book much more enjoyable. I would recommend this book as an enjoyable and insightful read, but I would also suggest that you read it without the expectation of a primary love story theme. As a book about a young girl who experiences a variety of realistic circumstances that go along with joining an Amish community as an outsider, this one is excellent.