Title: Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A+ and a Recommended Read
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher
Proving the Simple Life Isn’t So Simple After All
Overcommitted and overwhelmed, Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She knows she should feel blessed as a mother and wife–but she just feels exhausted. And then, the miraculous happens. Her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her. It’s just the break Julie needs.
But the summer adventure in simple living soon proves anything but simple. With the camera watching every move, Susan’s drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or dressing differently, each new Amish challenge raises new complications… and soon each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.
Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman is a captivating novel that will resonate with anyone who feels overwhelmed by today’s busy lifestyles. Dissatisfied, discouraged and unhappy with her current lifestyle, Julie Charlton quickly agrees to guest star on a reality TV show, Almost Amish with her sister-in-law, Susan Reynolds. For Susan, this is an opportunity to advance her career. For Julie, it is a much needed break from her hectic, frenetic life, a way to reconnect with her kids and a chance to figure out what is missing in her life.
Julie is a wonderful character and I suspect a lot of people will identify with her. I know that I certainly do. She is overscheduled, overworked and hates her life despite the fact she has a loving husband and two pretty terrific kids. She is laidback, easygoing and has a difficult time saying no. Julie is far from perfect and she is also her harshest critic. She has low self-esteem and she consistently feels like she does not measure up to other’s expectations. Julie easily adjusts to their simpler life and she discovers she enjoys a slower pace. She savors her newfound closeness wit Susan,h her children and her niece.
A type A personality, “helicopter” Mom who is extremely focused and career driven, Susan is the complete opposite of Julie. She is a perfectionist with high expectations of herself, her daughter and Julie. Susan is looking so far ahead that she often misses what is happening in the here and now. Convinced she knows what is best for her, she is completely out of touch with daughter. Susan is quick to judge people with her opinions often based on nothing but their appearance. Her divorce deeply damaged her self-confidence and she is desperately trying to secure her and her daughter’s future.
The kids are pretty typical teenagers. Julie’s kids, Brian and Whitney are not happy about giving up their summer and activities, and neither is Angie, Susan’s daughter. For the most part, they give in gracefully and comply with most of the rules. However they are teens, so there are a few mini rebellions that take place over the summer.
The secondary cast of characters is well-developed. Segment producer Kendra Stein is the least likable and probably a pretty good representation of what goes on behind the scenes of reality TV. We get to know Julie’s husband Thomas a little through his visits. Handyman Gary Macko is a calming and helpful influence. There is a definite attraction between him and Susan that helps soften Susan’s rougher exterior. Rosemary Foil is not only their quilting instructor, but she does a wonderful job teaching a few valuable life lessons to her students.
Both Julie and Susan learn a lot about themselves and they come to appreciate one another’s differences. There is a lot of character growth throughout the course of the novel. Julie discovers her backbone and stands up for herself and others. Susan learns a few humbling lessons and she also has to make a difficult career decision.
Almost Amish is a refreshingly unique and thought-provoking novel. It is impossible to read without re-evaluating your own life and priorities. Kathryn Cushman delicately weaves valuable life lessons and strong undercurrents of faith throughout the story.
An insightful novel about slowing down and enjoying life, Almost Amish is an absolutely delightful read that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.