Monday, July 25, 2011

The Amish Nanny: The Women of Lancaster County, by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould--A Review

Harvest House Publishers, ISBN 9780736938617, July 2011

Ada Rupp is a young Amish woman who has learned, in the past year, that she is adopted--the mother who raised her is the sister of the mother who gave birth to her, her "aunt" who left Lancaster County, PA for Switzerland shortly after she was born. Ada also has a sister, Alexandra, two years older, who was adopted by another, English (that's those of us who are not Plain Folk) family in Oregon. That's a lot of upheaval for anyone, but in addition, Ada also learned during the visit of her sister Lexie, that the illness that has limited her all her life can be managed quite effectively. She now has the prospect of fulfilling her dreams, of becoming a teacher and in time marrying and being a wife and mother. Ada has interviewed for the post of teacher in one of the community's one-room schools, and has been told she can count on getting the position. With all this happiness, her always-protective mother gives her permission to travel to Oregon to attend her newly-discovered sister Lexie's wedding.

The only fly in the ointment is that is that the man Ada loves, the widower Will Gundy, is apparently courting pretty Leah Fisher instead. But disappointing as that is, she's got her teaching position to look forward to, and in the meantime the adventure of the trip to Oregon and her sister's wedding.

After the wedding, she comes home to confusion and upheaval.

Leah Fisher has been given the teaching position Ada had counted on--in part because Will Gundy urged it, believing it would be best for his oldest daughter, Christy, who is not recovering from the loss of her mother. And Will's grandmother, Alice, and Ada's grandmother, Frannie, apparently both still have an interest in a piece of property in Switzerland, where both families come from. There's a complicated legal dispute involving the property, and the two grandmothers would the property to remain in the hands of Herr Lauten, who will protect its historic significance, instead of being used to build a hydroelectric plant. To accomplish this, both families need to be represented in the proceedings in Switzerland--but Ada's grandmother is not strong enough to make the trip.

Ada finds herself traveling to Europe by cargo ship, acting as Christy's nanny, developing a friendship with a handsome young Mennonite scholar, meeting her birth mother, and learning more about her family's history than she ever imagined. It's an educational adventure--the rumspringa she never had because of her poor health.

This is a very warm and satisfying book, a fascinating look at a culture most of us know only as quaint pictures of men and women in plain dress from a past century, still traveling by horse and buggy. It's a loving portrait of a complex and interesting way of life, existing alongside ours, and the people who, in each generation, choose to commit to that way of life.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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