Since her parents died four years ago, Lindsay Bedford has lived with her Amish Aunt and Uncle in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She is now eighteen, and her friends are planning on taking the ‘Instruction for Baptism’ classes, after which they will be baptised and become full members of the Amish faith, responsible for fulfilling all the rules of the Ordnung. While her friends expect her to join them in the class and get baptised, her sister, Jessica, who is attending college, is encouraging Lindsay to complete her high school education and consider further education. As Lindsay is pondering her choice, she is asked to spend the summer back in her old hometown in Virginia, helping a close family friend recover from a broken leg. This brings her into contact with some of her old friends, and helps her decide which life she will choose.
A Life of Joy is the fourth in the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, following A Gift of Grace, A Promise of Hope and A Place of Peace. However, it can easily be read as a stand-alone, as the relevant events from the previous books are covered in enough depth that the new reader understands the background, without providing so much detail as to bore the regular reader. I suspect these titles are more focused at the Young Adult than then Adult market. While there was nothing wrong with the book, I am old enough that I don’t really want to read about teenagers any more – but I can fully see that these would be worthwhile books for my daughter to read in a few years. A Life of Joyemphasised the importance of making your own decisions based on your own faith in God, and not allowing external pressures or ‘worldly’ people to influence that decision, and this is certainly something I expect that many Christian parents seek to teach their children.
There were a few things that puzzled me in A Life of Joy, but these are more a commentary on US life in general and Amish life in particular than any criticism of the book. I found it amusing that while the Amish are not permitted to own or use most modern technology, it is permitted for them to sell souvenirs like “books, maps, postcards, magnets, keychains, collectible spoons and note cards”, all of which must be mass-produced (probably in China) using manufacturing methods that the Amish would not themselves be permitted to use. And is it a cash-only business, or are they permitted the electronic machinery necessary to accept credit cards? I found it frustrating when one character reminds another that “the Bible tells us not to judge one another”, when the central plot feature of so many Amish books (although not this one) is shunning – casting ‘sinners’ out of the Amish community until they repent. And I just shook my head when Lindsay passed her GED (the equivalent of a high school diploma). How hard can it be if a teen with no formal high school education can pass by studying one book for only a month? No wonder most American teenagers seem to spend their high school years in a mainstream equivalent to the Amish rumspringa (‘running around’).
Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.