Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What I Read Wednesday: Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

Almost Amish: A NovelFrom the Cover:
Over committed and overwhelmed, Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She knows she should feel blessed as a mother and wife—but she just feels exhausted. And then, the miraculous happens.  Her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her.  It’s just the break Julie needs.

But the summer adventure in simple living soon proves anything but simple.  With the camera watching every move, Susan’s drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or dressing differently, each new Amish challenge raises new complications…and soon each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.

Andrea’s Take:
Almost Amish is a departure from my usual preference of historical romance, but when Kathryn Cushman broadcast the back cover copy and called for influencers, my reply to her was something like, “This woman sounds so much like me that I really think I need to read this book.”

Almost Amish is a character driven story, and the characters are amazingly compelling. Julie and Susan are easily likened to the Biblical Mary and Martha. Julie’s continual feeling of, “What am I good at? What am I supposed to be doing?” struck a chord in my heart, and resonated with me throughout the story. Often, her scenes brought tears to my eyes because I saw so much of myself in her. She comes to realize strengths in herself that have been hidden under layers of busyness and urgency. 

Susan’s perfectionist-induced stress rolled off of her in waves. At times, just reading her point of view was enough to make my shoulders ache with tension. Circumstances at one point forced Susan to view her life and family from a very different prospective, and she began to realize weaknesses in herself, and strength in others, that she had never understood before. Though I didn’t readily identify with Susan, I did understand her.

After learning some hard lessons about their relationships with each other, their families, and God, both women return home with new determination to simplify their lives in all the ways that count.

Characters to Watch:
Whitney, Brian, and Angie – Julie’s children and Susan’s daughter.  All the children are wonderful, and Angie is instrumental to Susan’s transformation. But thirteen year old Brian stole my heart. He bears an uncanny resemblance to a young man in my church. His dry, intelligent humor had me chuckling often.

Chris – A production assistant for the TV show. Chris doesn’t get a lot of “screen time” in the story, but his presence serves as a catalyst for much of the family drama that unfolds.

Kendra – The show’s producer. Smug and self-serving, Kendra very often had me seeing red.

Some details of the production of the TV show struck me as not quite right, and I didn’t like that Julie’s husband (Susan’s brother) Thomas didn’t accompany the family on their summer adventure.  Since I don’t know anything about TV production, I let that slide with little trouble. Thomas’s presence would have drastically altered the group dynamic. It would have made for an entirely different story, which would have made me very sorry indeed.

Overall, I enjoyed Almost Amish very much. I started reading it early in the morning, read every spare moment, and finished before the wee hours of the morning. It was a day well spent.

I give it Four Stars

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