Have you ever wandered into the bookstore and aimlessly skimmed titles before coming to a screeching halt at the Amish romance novel section? Well, we at The Thrill certainly have and our curiosities have been piqued. It has therefore become my quest to read at least one of these Amish romance novels and share its contents and my emotional/sardonic responses with you all. With this goal in mind, I purposefully strode into the bookstore this past Sunday and bee-lined to the Amish section. I picked the first book that caught my eye, “The Preacher’s Daughter,” by Beverly Lewis. After doing a bit of research I discovered that Lewis is quite an acclaimed author of Amish fiction and that the book I had chosen is the first of a series entitled, “Annie’s People.” So, if my middle school style book report grabs your attention and you fall in love with the novel, worry not. An entire series awaits you.
The Setting: The novel takes place in Paradise, Pennsylvania, which is a mennonite Amish community. While the name Paradise evokes a romantic tropical setting, it is instead a wooded environment with scenery much like Kenyon. Our main character describes the turning of the leaves in autumn and running barefoot through thin layers of snow to reach her secret art studio (this detail is actually quite scandalous as you will soon see).
Main Characters: The heroine of “The Preacher’s Daughter” is Annie Zook. She is an adolescent girl in the midst of her rumspringa (a period of adolescence in which boys and girls are given greater personal freedom and allowed to form romantic relationships, usually ending with the choice of baptism into the church or leaving the community). Rudy Esch is our heroine’s love interest. He is described as being fun loving and energetic yet very dedicated to the church (a detail that comes between him and Annie). Louisa Statford is Annie’s childhood pen pal. Louisa lives in Colorado and is not a part of the Amish community.
The Plot: After a dedicated reading and numerous hours spent curled up in the bookstore, I can now relay to you the basic plot of “The Preacher’s Daughter.”* Annie is a secret artist. Ever since she was a child she has felt drawn to the world of art. When she walks through Paradise she sees the autumn scenery through an artist’s eye. Her art matters to her above all else. BUT…her father and her entire Amish community disapproves of all art. So, she is forced to paint in secret. Rudy, her first and only love has been courting her for three years but Rudy wants to end his rumspringa and join the church. Annie is afraid to because it would mean giving up her art once and for all. Throughout her teen years of secret painting, Annie has relied on one person, Louisa. Her pen pal is also an artist. Annie yearns for Louisa’s artistic freedom. However, the thing that you (or at least I) really don’t see coming is that Louisa is deeply unhappy. She is engaged to a materialistic man of her parent’s choosing and feels trapped and longs for Annie’s simple lifestyle. Their two desires converge when Louisa flees the alter and comes to Paradise to be with Annie. The main plot is peppered with seemingly random side plots within the Amish community such as kidnapping and a supposed domestic abuse case.
The End: I’m sure that you are now sitting at the edge of your seat wondering if Annie will choose her art or the Amish church. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the answer. Mostly because I don’t want to be that kid who spoils the end of something truly beautiful but also because I didn’t finish reading the book. I therefore leave it up to you to go to the bookstore and purchase “The Preacher’s Daughter.” It will be a purchase you won’t regret, though I can’t really say that with certainty since I didn’t actually purchase it.
*By spending hours in the bookstore reading, I actually mean sitting on the floor for ten minutes and reading the first four chapters of the book and then googling the plot in the comfort of my own apartment. You’re welcome, world.