I just finished reading A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman. I finished it much quicker than I had suspected, primarily because I couldn’t put it down! And to be honest, I was surprised. I’ve never read an Amish fiction novel before. I have always thought they were a bit to goody-two-shoes for my taste, but the characters Vannetta created were so real, I was hooked from the very first chapter. Despite the tremendous differences between myself (runner, biker, computer addict, facebook feign, etc, etc, etc) and Annie Weaver, the traditional, very feminine and somewhat shy, heroine, I related to her difficulties and understood her longings. In many ways, this book made me think of the 1900’s women’s lib movement, but it also reminded me of the struggles many women face today. As emotional, nurturing women, we long for family and acceptance, and yet, as intelligent, ambitious creatures, we want more. We want to succeed and achieve, to contribute in a tangible way. Perhaps it is just me, but it seems there will always be a struggle between those two worlds. Not that you can’t be intelligent and raise a family, but it can be hard to feel a sense of accomplishment after making the bed. In A Simple Amish Christmas, Vannetta helps the reader realize the complexity of womanhood. Yes, we long to nurture and be cherished, but we also want to contribute, to make a difference in our communities and world, not just within our homes. I loved the way Vannetta addresses these issues through effective characterization.
Annie Weaver, a young Amish woman, leaves her community for three years to live with her aunt before committing fully to her church. During this time, she pursues a life-long dream of medicine and attains a nursing degree. Working in a local hospital, she grows very attached to a very sick little boy. Even though it breaks her heart to see this child suffer, she feels fulfilled knowing she is using her skills to bring comfort to another. And yet, despite all the intellectual and emotional fulfillment her new lifestyle provides, she feels a deep longing for her home and the community she had once depended on. When her father is injured, she rushes home to care for him and finds everything just as she left it. Back home among her family, her longing intensifies to the point that she is willing to give up on her dream in order to regain the deep sense of love and acceptance that comes from being part of such a close-knit community.
It is during this time of deep searching that she meets the strong, opinionated, and at times bearish, Samuel Yoder. His false judgments and rude comments, which verge on patronizing, infuriate and intrigue her at the same time. What is it about this man that sets her heart aflutter every time he glances her way?