Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bender, Sue "Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish"

Bender, Sue "Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish" - 1991

Our book club read and discussed this as one of our members had received the book from a friend. We all liked the book but had a few observations, e.g. we thought the title should have been: "A woman's journey to herself".

The description of Amish life isn't too bad, the author managed to live with two different Amish families for a while but she didn't go very deep into the religion and culture of this group which is certainly a major part for the Amish. She didn't seem to need/want to know more about their religion which we thought is the most important part of their life. There are already many books for simplifying your life/decluttering, we didn't need this one for that.

If you don't know anything about the Amish, this is certainly a good book to read, it's not very long either. There could have been a lot more. Quite a few of us only knew only a little bit about the Amish through the movie "Witness".

A thought that came up nevertheless: We found the report about Amish life very peaceful, it puts things into perspective. Why do we always have to rush? The idea is the journey on the way.

Other discussion points: We have a lot of respect for the Amish and would have liked to know what makes the Amish different to other Christians, what makes them the way they are?

There are many reasons why we should lead a simple life, environment, climate change, etc.

We were fascinated by their life and their quilts which was really the main reason for the author to write the book.

It was also amazing how they managed to keep their language over all those years.

We discussed this in our book club in April 2007.

From the back cover:
"Charmingly illustrated and refreshingly spare, Plain and Simple speaks to the seeker in each of us.
'I had an obsession with the Amish. Plan and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary.' So begins Sue Bender's story, the captivating and inspiring true story of a harried urban Californian moved by the beauty of a display of quilts to seek out and live with the Amish. Discovering lives shaped by unfamiliar yet comforting ideas about time, work, and community, Bender is gently coaxed to consider, 'Is there another way to lead a good life?'

Her journey begins in a New York men's clothing store. There she is spellbound by the vibrant colors and stunning geometric simplicity of the Amish quilts 'spoke directly to me,' writes Bender. Somehow, 'they went straight to my heart.'

Heeding a persistent inner voice, Bender searches for Amish families willing to allow her to visit and share in there daily lives.
Plain and Simple vividly recounts sojourns with two Amish families, visits during which Bender enters a world without television, telephone, electric light, or refrigerators; a world where clutter and hurry are replaced with inner quiet and calm ritual; a world where a sunny kitchen 'glows' and 'no distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday.'

In nine interrelated chapters--as simple and elegant as a classic nine-patch Amish quilt--Bender shares the quiet power she found reflected in lives of joyful simplicity, humanity, and clarity. The fast-paced, opinionated, often frazzled Bender returns home and reworks her 'crazy-quilt' life, integrating the soul-soothing qualities she has observed in the Amish, and celebrating the patterns in the Amish, and celebrating the patterns formed by the distinctive 'patches' of her own life.

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