Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review: Almost Amish

Okay, I have to admit it. That title really attracted me to this book. And the beautiful colors on the cover photo (those are some of my FAVORITE colors!)


 I've always been very curious and intrigued by the Amish. In fact, we had a group of wonderful Amish men do some work for us last summer, and I just had to do it. On the car ride back to our house (I had to go pick them up), I asked them if they minded some questions. They graciously said no and then put up with my questions for the next 30 minutes during our ride home.

And I just couldn't resist asking them what they thought about all of these authors writing books about them. (I think I may have embarrassed Brad at this point.) The man in charge just kind of laughed and said that most of the ones they had ever read were pretty inaccurate. Very interesting.

So, I'm not sure how accurate Ms. Nancy Sleeth's portrayal of the Amish is in her book; most of the things she stated sounded fairly accurate, but I guess I'm just a little more cautious about what I believe since talking to some authentic Amish myself. And to give her credit, she does write a little note of thanks to the Amish community as a whole in the back of the book and apologizes for any inadvertent errors.

But the premise of this book is awesome! The subtitle of the book states, "One woman's quest for a slower, simpler, more sustainable life." And that's pretty much what she wrote about. The title came from a question the author and her husband were asked at a conference they were speaking at. One of the attendees asked, "What are you, Amish or something?"

Ms. Sleeth's thought to herself,  "Open your eyes! Am I wearing a bonnet? We arrived in a Prius, not on a pony." However this question got her thinking and reevaluating her family's way of life and led her and her family on a new journey.

The Sleeth family did not always live a life of simplicity. Mr. Sleeth, an ER physician, lived the life of a successful physician. He and his family lived in a wealthy New England town with the large house, the expensive vehicles, "dressed to L.L. Bean perfection."

But as he began to see patients in the ER the age of him and his wife dying from cancer and other terminal illnesses, he began to question the meaning of his life. And through a series of events, the Sleeths found themselves on a quest to search out their hearts on what was really important.

This led both of them to an intimate, real relationship with Christ and a new appreciation for life. And also the conviction to simplify their life drastically. Goodbye big home, goodbye multiple vehicles, goodbye extensive wardrobe.

They simplified out of a conviction for all of their excess as well as what this excess was doing to their enjoyment of life and to the well-being of the environment as well.

I really LOVED this book. It was both easy and fun to read. Although Ms. Sleeth does not go into extensive detail with statistics and such, she offers a lot of helpful and encouraging advice for those looking to simplify their lives for both the sake of their sanity and also the environment.

She encourages her readers to make our families and our faith the central priority in our lives rather than our possessions and technology. And she offers tips and some direction on how to get started in doing just that.

This book is not a book just about the Amish. Ms. Sleeth uses examples from the Amish way of life during each of the chapters, but this is not a book in which she is telling us that the only way to go is Amish.

I would say that this book portrays a happy medium. This isn't an off-grid kind of book in which the author tells you that you need to raise your own livestock and supply your own electricity through wind power. Rather it's a book that presents doable ideas for the average American who is just beginning on their journey to a more simple way of living.

There are ten sections or topics covered...

1. Homes - Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
2. Technology - Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
3. Finances - Saving more and spending less brings financial peace.
4. Nature - Time spent in God's creation reveals the face of God.
5. Simplicity - Small and local leads to saner lives.
6. Service - Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.
7. Security - The only true security comes from God.
8. Community - Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses builds community.
9. Families - Families are lifelong; they change but never cease.
10. Faith - Faith life and way of life are inseparable.

Ms. Sleeth also shares some Amish recipes at the end of the book as well as a section offering additional resources and a section with discussion questions.

Great book! Very encouraging and inspiring! Caused me to think about a lot of things and the value that I place on material possessions as well as supporting local community. I give Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life 5/5 stars.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.*

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