Sunday, September 30, 2012

Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

"Cushman crafts strong characters that are easy to connect with."--Romantic Times

Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She's overwhelmed and burned out, and in today's unrelenting society, her kids are, too. When her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series promoting simple living, and needs another family to join her, it seems like the perfect opportunity.

The location is an idyllic farm outside an Amish community in Tennessee. Julie, with her two children, joins Susan and her teenage daughter for a summer adventure. Susan needs to succeed in order to become self-sufficient after an ugly divorce, Julie needs to slow down long enough to remember what her priorities are and regain a sense of purpose and meaning. It becomes clear from the start that "living simple" is no simple matter. 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. With each new challenge, their season of "going Amish" gets more and more complicated, as each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.

Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman was a truly enjoyable novel that went beyond being simply Amish and really delved into the importance of family, trust, and slowing down in life. At first, I had trouble getting connected to the storyline, but after the first few chapters, I was completely drawn in and did not want to put the book down. I really enjoyed the storyline and how events unfolded in this novel. There was a never a point after the beginning where I was bored or could completely predict what going to happen. The plot line was interesting and had an engaging mixture of humorous, suspenseful, saddening, and joyful situations. The tone varied nicely within the story, and the language was easy to understand yet not overly simple. The perspective from which the story was narrated was primarily Julie's, but there were a few chapters where the reader saw everything from her sister in law, Susan's, point of view. The thoughts and feelings of the children were not neglected either; these were expressed through the conversations between characters and a couple of sections of the novel that were told more from their perspectives.

The characters of this novel were realistic and engaging. I enjoyed Julie's quirks and her ability to find positives even in the weird or ugly situations. Her growth into her personality as she began to understand her worth as a person and child of God and the gifts God had given her was a beautiful and compelling change to behold. Susan was a harder character to sympathize with because of her complete lack of emotion and her bossy and controlling personality. Even so, I was able to identify with her struggles because I have many of the same personality traits and have siblings that are more like Julie. I was convicted by the realizations that Susan had about life, letting go, and surrendering to God and His will. The supporting characters, such as the children, Chris, and Gary were great characters who provided a lot of laughs, cries, and helped both Julie and Susan realize and make changes in their lives and characters.

The themes in Almost Amish were clear, convicting, and expertly woven throughout the story. Some of these themes included the importance of taking time for family, being able to say 'no', slowing down in life, surrendering control to God, taking time to understand others before passing judgment, and really listening to the needs and issues that others have. These are truly critical themes to dwell and meditate on, especially in the busy and hectic culture that we live in.

Overall, I really enjoyed Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants an interesting and compelling read.

I received this novel for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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