Fiction — print. Bethany House, 2013. 238 pgs. Advanced review copy.
Like many of us who enjoy reading about the Amish, Jenny Burns has contemplated what it would be like to live amongst the Old Order Amish. Jenny, however, has taken steps to make this dream a reality — trading letters with a member of the Hickory Hollow Amish community to establish a connection, selling all her worldly possessions and leaving her job before moving to Hickory Hollow to join the community as prospective convert.
Given the premise, I expected to enjoy this story, but I found myself rather underwhelmed by Jenny and her transition into the Amish community. Maybe because Jenny, despite her affection for old-fashioned items and lifestyles, seemed unsuited to life as a Amish person? Her refusal to tell her parents or siblings about her decision speaks to how much she longs to escape, and the emphasis on how being a convert makes her unsuited towards marriage as she interacts with Andrew sets this as her main goal rather than becoming closer to god, which is the true basis of an Amish person’s life. In all, it sets this book up to be more of a romance novel than the self-realization I expected to find within its pages.
Furthermore, (spoiler alert!) the conclusion of the novel is rather rushed with Jenny fleeing the community with the realization the Amish are not perfect and returning when she realizes that no one is perfect. I wanted to shake her and tell her, well, duh. The lack of depth on the part of all the characters outside of Rebecca Lapp, who Jenny stays with, does nothing to expand upon Jenny’s journey.
Those familiar with Lewis’ work will know that this book is set in the same location at The Shunning, a series of books that started my interest in Lewis’s novels but that I ultimately found unsatisfying. This book, thankfully, provides some closure on the story first introduced in The Shunning as Jenny lives in Katie Lapp’s adoptive, Amish parents during her time trying to become a convert.