July 16th, 2009
Remember when the worst thing that could happen in Amish fiction was being late to the barn raising? Now authors are pushing the envelope to see how far their Amish or once-Amish characters can fall. The serial-killer stalking, foul-mouthed chief of police in Linda Castillo’s Sworn to Silence is not only ex-Amish, but a woman to boot. And who wouldn’t want to treasure hunt in a dark cave with sexy Caleb Peachy, a Navy SEAL who just happened to grow up Amish in Sandra Hill’s Pearl Jinx? And when did the Amish start opening Bed and Breakfasts? They do make convenient places to hide from both an abusive boyfriend in Hidden by Shelley Gray and as cover for beautician-turned-sleuth Bubbles Yablonsky in Sarah Strohmeyer’s Bubbles in Trouble.
Possibly the Amish brought this upon themselves when they started inviting us up their driveways to buy whoopee pies and corner cabinets. We no longer see them as the mysterious, insular people portrayed in the movie Witness or Carrie Bender’s Birch Hollow Schoolmarm. They have become a group just quirky enough to serve as fodder for satire with eccentric characters and unusual locations. Weird Al Yankovich primed the pump with his song “Amish Paradise”, pointing out that the Amish “ain’t really quaint, so please don’t point and stare”. But we did stare open-mouthed as the documentary Devil’s Playground completely shattered what was left of our idyllic stereotype with its portrait of Amish teens gone wild during their rumspringa. The reality TV show Amish in the City pushed some to cry exploitation. So it seems the Amish aren’t so simple, but deal with issues just like ours. Leading authors like Beverly Lewis and Cindy Woodsmall continue to intrigue readers with stories of the Amish community struggling with their faith and family life. But is the latest twist on Amish fiction showing a new, different side of the Amish community or just creating more misconceptions? With characters forsaking the Amish community or pulling their bonnets and hats low, these authors are certainly putting a new spin on “escapist” fiction.
Are the Amish treated fairly in these books? What do you think of Amish fiction? Leave us a comment! And if you prefer a gentler read, click here to see a booklist of traditional Amish fiction and mystery reads.