You might think, from my remarks on Growing Up Amish, that I don’t read Amish fiction, and it is for those reasons that I don’t read much of it. But I was reading Beverly Lewis long before Amish fiction started exploding on the Christian fiction market. Since her books were based on or inspired by some of her grandmother’s experiences, and since she didn’t idealize the Amish lifestyle but delved into some of its problems and hardships, I’ve enjoyed all of her books that I have read. (Some other authors of Amish fiction may do the same, but I am not interested in expanding my reading of that genre.)
The River is about two sisters from an Amish family who had left the Amish years before to “go fancy” into the world of Englischers. They receive word from a brother that there is a celebration planned for their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and both sisters are invited. They’re not inclined to attend until they hear that their father has a serious heart condition and is resisting the idea of surgery. They decide to go, with some trepidation.
Tilly, the older sister, had left the Amish first. There had always been tension between her and her father, and when her youngest little sister, Anna, had drowned in a river, that tension was exacerbated because Tilly blamed herself for not watching her sister closely enough and felt her father blamed her as well. Her sister Ruthie left a few years later primarily due to a hard breakup with a beau. Since their leaving, Tilly married and had two children; Ruthie was single but actively involved in a good church.
As they return, Tilly has the harder time, feeling that she is blamed not only for Anna’s death, but also for influencing Ruthie away from the Amish. Her father is not hostile but is not welcoming, either. Ruthie runs into her old boyfriend and at first wants to avoid him, but then decides she should at least hear him out when he wants to talk with her. Both women struggle with the parts of their former lives that are good and familiar vs. the parts that are painful.
Strong themes in the book are the need to look at another person’s side of things and the need for forgiveness, both extending and receiving.
I very much enjoyed the book and felt the struggles that were faced were realistic.
Beverly mentioned in her note at the end that she had made a documentary called “Glimpses of Lancaster County.” Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. Each is only a few minutes long. The end of Part 2 mentions a Part 3, but I didn’t see it on the site (later I did find Part 3 on YouTube.) It was enjoyable to hear Beverly describe her childhood, her grandmother who was shunned for marrying outside of her father’s will, and to see some of the places where she and her family grew up and where some scenes for her books take place.
For those who enjoy book trailers, here is the one for The River.