The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
Pub. Date: May 1997
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Format: Paperback, 283pp
Age Range: Adult
Series: Heritage of Lancaster County #1
Synopsis from BN.com:
When Katie Lapp finds the satin infant gown in the dusty leather trunk of her parents’ attic, she knows it holds a secret she must discover. Why else would her Amish mother, a plain and simple woman who embraces the Old Order laws, hide the beautiful baby dress in the attic? But nothing could have prepared Katie for the startling news that stumbles out of her anguished parents on the eve of her wedding to Bishop John. Will Katie suddenly find herself a stranger in the community she has always called home?
For years I have looked at and wondered about the Amish fiction of Beverly Lewis. Presented with the opportunity to review the DVD for the Hallmark Channel movie version of The Shunning — coming soon — I decided that the time had finally come to read the book. And I’m delighted to find that my reading experience was a pleasure!
Beverly Lewis was born in Pennsylvania Dutch country and dedicates The Shunning to her grandmother who left her Plain community. Lewis’ interest in and respect for her Amish heritage is demonstrated in the novel. I enjoyed the author’s smattering of Amish and German words and phrases throughout the text. And I also appreciated that the novel explains some Amish rituals and customs but never feels encyclopedic. Instead one feels transported to the small fictional community of Hickory Hollow in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The novel is told in the third-person, but begins with a prologue written from the first-person perspective of the main character, Katie Lapp. From the start, I found it easy to care about Katie, whose voice and independent spirit comes through almost immediately. The community comes to life as we get to know Katie’s family, her best-friend Mary, and several other friends, family members, and neighbors. The relationship between Katie and Mary is sweet, and there are some touching scenes between the two.
Katie has never found it easy being Plain. She loves Fancy things, color, and especially music, so she’s always felt a little out of step with her friends and neighbors. And though she is kind-hearted and good, following the rules and customs of her community sometimes is a struggle. The Shunning allows the reader a chance to walk alongside Katie on her journey of self-discovery. We glimpse her wrestling with questions about her faith, her customs, her heart, and her destiny.
While the novel may not have a complex or unpredictable plot, it is an emotional book. And I found it rewarding to watch how characters responded as circumstances unfolded. As the title suggests, we learn about the practice of die Meinding or the Shunning. Lewis handles the difficult subject well, managing to question and spotlight the practice without casting too long or dark a shadow. This ensures that by the conclusion of the novel, readers are able to sympathize with both the outcast and the community who has averted its collective glance.
Unfortunately, the novel is incomplete in its resolution. A cliffhanger ending leaves us unsatisfied and wondering what kind of answers Katie will find on her journey. The ending does, however, motivate you to pick up the next installment in the series and read on! Though I’ll have to wait on book two, I do look forward to viewing the film version of The Shunning starring Danielle Panabaker!
Please note: I read a copy from the library, so the cover posted with my review may not be readily found on bookshelves at your local stores. Instead, look for the updated cover art or the movie tie-in: