Monday, April 5, 2010

Plain Jayne, by Hillary Manton Lodge

Plain Jayne
By Hillary Manton Lodge

As the story opens, we meet Jayne, a reporter in Portland, Oregon. Having recently lost her father, Jayne seems to be distracted in her work. When her boss forces her to take some time off, instead of taking a vacation, Jayne travels to a small Oregon Amish community in search of a story about plain living. Jayne meets Levi Burkholder, a business owner in the community, who introduces her to an Amish family. Jayne quickly forms strong bonds with the family, as well as Levi, and learns the meaning of family, faith, love, and life.

This was my first foray into fiction about the Amish, and I must say, I could not have picked a better book to start with. As a new writer, Lodge does a wonderful job of setting the story up, without revealing too much from the beginning. We are able to journey along side Jayne, as she makes her startling personal discoveries, and works through old emotional wounds. Because the female protagonist is not Amish, or as they refer to her as, is English, we are able to quickly relate to the character, so that we want to make the journey with her. As she learns about Amish living, so do we. I could almost smell the freshly baking pies, and feel the quilt squares in my hands.

Much like Amish life, the book is peaceful, quiet. While reading, I could not help but reflect on my own life, and how I dealt with the themes of family, faith, love, and living a bit simpler. The characters are well developed and realistic. I found myself very much identifying with Jayne, having lived in a bigger city for a while, and now living a simpler small town life. I love the way this book led me into reflection, not just about the story, but about myself. And although there are aspects of a romance to the story line, the moral choices of Jayne’s character, for which I completely applaud Lodge, make the book appropriate for young adult readers as well as adult readers.

The book is set up to be the first in a series I believe, called Plain and Simple, with a character from this story setting up the next book. If that is indeed the case, I cannot wait to read the next book.

This book was provided for review free of charge courtesy of the Christian Review of Books.