Monday, January 30, 2012

A Life of Joy by Amy Clipston

Normally, I like reading books about the Amish. We don't have anyone/any community like that in Singapore, and I think it's interesting to read about my brothers and sisters in Christ. A Life of Joy was supposed to be like this - a sweet young girl choosing if she wants to be Amish. Instead, I found myself unaccountably annoyed with the protagonist.

Lindsay grew up 'English', a term that encompasses anyone that isn't Amish. But when her parents died, her sister (Jessica) and her was moved to Bird-in-Hand. Jessica couldn't take the Amish way of life and fled to college, but Lindsay loves it, although now with Baptism class coming up, she's starting to feel uncertain. And in order for her to compare, an opportunity arises for her to live with the 'English' a little while.

For some weird reason, I found Lindsay annoying and egoistical. She seems to be convinced that people won't be able to function without her. To quote:

Lindsay gestured toward Rebecca. "But you need me too. You're my family, my real, blood family."
"I'll be just fine if you want to go to Virginia" Rebecca said.
"What about the bakery? Elizabeth depends on me."
If you don't know, she's considering whether to go and help her Aunt Trisha, who broke her leg badly and has no one to help. If I were her, I'll go right away, because that's where I'm needed. But instead, she angst's over it.

Perhaps it's because I identify more with Jessica. She's very driven, especially with regards to college and she wants Lindsay to go to college to (something that won't happen if she joins the Amish). But of course, Lindsay resents this interference. I probably would, but as the older sister, I'm prone to be more like Jessica than Lindsay. What I wanted to see more of in the book was the interactions between Jessica and Jake. The implications of an 'English' girl falling in love with a Mennonite boy would be really interesting, although I don't like Jake that much.

The only other problem I have with the book is with regards to characterisation. Everyone is almost too nice, except, of course, the 'English' teenagers who are try to grope Lindsay and drink all the time. To clarify: these are only the non-Christian teenagers. What I would have liked was to see a little more complex characters, why can't there be nice non-Christians (I want to see more Vicki and Heather) and unpleasant Amish/Christians (more on Katie's mom!). Then, it would seem more like real life. Because we Christians are also flawed. Perhaps that's why Jessica is my favourite character - she's flawed yes, but also has good intentions.

All these negatives aside, the book is a good read. I kept reading on, hoping against hope that the ending wasn't what I thought it would be (it was), but I enjoyed reading it. I actually have a feeling that I would like to read more about Bird-In-Hand, so perhaps it was the choice of protagonist that prevented me from liking the book as much as I should have. If you're new to reading Amish stories, I would recommend reading Beverly Lewis's books first, before going on to read this.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley. I was requested to write a review, but all opinions here are mine.

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