Thursday, October 21, 2010

REVIEW: An Amish Christmas: A Novel - by Cynthia Keller**

Posted by Carla B. at 8:31 PM
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The beginning of this book is gives us a family like many of our own: self-absorbed teenagers, their younger brother, and parents that have a solid but distant marriage. Like many couples, as they built a career and family their own relationship slowly withered away to where both are not entirely happy. Instead, they focus on achieving the perfection of "the American Dream" - the often sought but rarely achieved nexus in today's society. The husband is so desperate to provide the Dream for his family, he resorts to risking their entire savings (stealthily without his wife's knowledge) - which he ultimately loses. He can't face telling his wife right away, so he compounds his mistake by lying to her outright. The fact he destroys his teens' social status angers them, and the youngest child become more anxious than usual with all the drama unfolding around him.

With no job, home or income, the family packs up to move in with the wife's parents. It's right before Christmas, and they head north from North Carolina through Pennsylvania Dutch country. On the way, they -literally- run into an Amish farmer. With his Amish grace and acceptance, he invites the family to stay at his home until their car is repaired. Thrust into an unusual situation, each family member is confronted by the simplicity of the Amish - which makes them question their own life. Not every member arrives to peace in the same way or at the same time, but each one discovers that sometimes simple is best. And that a happy family and productive life is the real American Dream - not all the material things that replace love, hope and loyalty of family and friends.

The end of the book ends on a positive note, but I would not exactly call is "happily ever after". In this book, you know that the family will survive intact and they will ultimately succeed and be happy. However, you are also aware there will be bumps along the way. The book does not tidily push aside resentment or suddenly establish trust between two partners, all because of one "a-ha" moment. Instead, the characters clearly state that this is only a start and they will do their best from that point forward. I liked that honest assessment at the end.

I found this book to be very uplifting and an easy read. It gave me new hope, and I found it perfect for Christmas. At a time when our economy has so many families downsizing and not able to afford the excesses of past Christmases, this is a comforting book to read. For my library, it is definitely a keeper.

**I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Librarything.com as part of their Early Reviewers program. Please see my  disclosure policy for further information.**

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