Book Review: "A Gift of Grace" by Amy Clipston

Rebecca Kauffman's tranquil Old Order Amish life is transformed when she suddenly has custody of her two teenage nieces after her "English" sister and brother-in-law are killed in an automobile accident. Instant motherhood, after years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive a child of her own, is both a joy and a heartache. Rebecca struggles to give the teenage girls the guidance they need as well as fulfill her duties to Daniel as an Amish wife.

Rebellious Jessica is resistant to Amish ways and constantly in trouble with the community. Younger sister Lindsay is caught in the middle, and the strain between Rebecca and Daniel mounts as Jessica's rebellion escalates. Instead of the beautiful family life she dreamed of creating for her nieces, Rebecca feels as if her world is being torn apart by two different cultures, leaving her to question her place in the Amish community, her marriage, and her faith in God.

I am split on how I feel about Amish books. On one hand, I feel like they are comfort reading. I enjoy reading about the Amish lifestyle and how they live their life in simplicity. I also adore reading about their food, I get stuffed just by reading one book. On the other hand, sometimes I disagree with their spiritual beliefs and also that the author seems to be very one sided in presenting the lifestyle. I have heard that some books have totally fabricated or over exaggerated events to make the books appeal more to readers.
With this book, I honestly wanted to really enjoy it. The beginning of the book totally captivated me. There's a bakery (food!), an interesting situation (normal teen girls forced to live in Amish house), and then the fact that the girls were from Virginia Beach (my hometown area). The writing is very engaging and it moves really fast. You get sucked into the story as you want to find out what happens to the girls and their new lifestyle.

However there were many problems though I had while reading it. Enough, that I almost gave up reading the book in frustration. The main one was the fact that Rebecca would not let Jessica and Lindsay go to school because they are too old according to the Amish. What bugs me about this is why she didn't' tell them this BEFORE they got back to Pennsylvania? It was said she spent a month with them before traveling back and even then she was hoping it wouldn't come up until later. Also her husband and her had agreed that the girls did not have to become Amish so I don't' understand why they couldn't have let them just go to school. This is especially because Jessica wants to go, and her mother had emphasized that going to college was always important. This really annoyed me because people should NOT be denied an education when they want it. How would they have felt if the situation had been reversed and Amish kids were forced to live in modern world and do things they didn't want just because they now lived in a new household? Also, Daniel really got on my nerves with his flip-floppy behavior. On one hand he's annoyed with Jessica because she won't adapt to the Amish lifestyle and stop being worldly and corrupting his family thus making him look bad. However he won't talk to her and won't tell her exactly what he wants. I cannot see how he can blame her for doing something wrong when she didn't know she wasn't supposed to! Then he's irritated with Lindsay because she DOES want to fit in with the Amish and learn their way of life. He thinks it's just a phase and refuses to encourage her in anything she does. Personally he just seems like he's not ready to be a father to teenagers because he doesn't have a clue of how to handle them at all. There were also issues I had with the Amish community itself. However the author did add a note in the beginning saying that she had changed some of the traditions to fit the storyline.

I know it sounds as if I really had problems with this book. I'm not bashing it all. I just had problems with the way some issues were handled because I felt they were handled wrongly. Sometimes I feel that certain books seem to be pushing a certain lifestyle and try to make the reader feel guilty for not living that way. I sort of got that feeling with this book. This probably was because it seemed that everyone was against Jessica for wanting to not change to the Amish lifestyle and I totally agreed with her. I did enjoy reading about the bakery so I'm looking forward to reading more about it in the future. Also I LOVED the recipes sprinkled throughout as some of them seemed very easy to make. I just hope for the next book that these issues have been resolved. While this book may not have been for me, if you are a fan of the Amish lifestyle you will enjoy this book.

A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston is published by Zondervan (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher.


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