In Plain View
Van Halen wisely tells us, “I found the simple life ain’t so simple/When I jumped out on that road.” When the main character of In Plain View first thought about joining the Amish, she had no idea just how true these words would prove to be.
Annie Friesen left her high tech job with its high speed, high powered life because she was unhappy with where that life was headed. Living among the Amish has certainly helped her slow down and refocus, but it has come with its own set of challenges as well. While she has enjoyed cooking, she hasn’t exactly shown a flair for quilting and sewing clothes. She misses the ease of her old life and sometimes finds herself longing for things like the internet, which would make everything less complicated. Adding to the difficulties she faces is the fact that Rufus Beiler, her would-be beau who started her on this path, has not shown any signs that he is ready to truly court her. And then Beth Stutzman moves to town. She is a lovely Amish girl who quilts, speaks their language, and clearly has her eye on Rufus. Will he turn to her rather than Annie for marriage? And should Annie pursue the plain life if it doesn’t even include love?
Rufus loves Annie but doesn’t want her to embrace the Amish way of life just for him. He struggles not to push her along on the journey to her decision as he finds himself in an awkward situation. It is clear the Stutzman family looks to him to marry one of their three daughters, preferably the eldest, Beth. His shy, polite ways keep him from handling the situation in a direct manner that will embarrass the girl, but he knows he must do something soon to rectify that situation. Rufus also grapples with the fact that the English community wants him to join them in building a recreation area on public property. The Amish utilize areas like that and he feels they should take part in the project, but some of his people feel that living apart means not getting involved in the greater world beyond what is absolutely necessary. As Rufus comes to term with that, he must decide for himself what he sees as the best path for his own life.
One of the excellent things about this book is that it highlights a simple truth: things don’t complicate life, people do. Even with all the stuff in her life gone, Annie finds herself facing challenges that consume her heart and soul. In addition to her struggles to fit in with the Amish, to learn their language and their ways, she must tone down her temper in order to deal with the subtle but effective digs that Beth takes at her. A visit to her parents also has Annie remembering just how good her old life could be and wondering why she is so ready to sacrifice so much for a man who seems unsure of her. I was really pleased with how the story showed that internal struggles within ourselves and external struggles with others and our circumstances remain the same, no matter how much we simplify our lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rufus in the first book of this series, but he did not fare as well this time around. For much of the book he seems a pawn to others’ whims, letting his family, the Stutzman family, and the community determine a great deal of what he should and shouldn’t do. It wasn’t until the end of the story that he really came back to life as a character, taking control of situations and kindly but firmly setting matters right. This took a bit too long for my taste and left our hero looking less than heroic for much of the book.
Adding some filler to the plot were a mystery regarding Rufus’s younger brother and a flashback to Rufus’s family history. The history deals with family members leaving the Amish community during the American Revolution, and also shows the importance of waiting for the “right one.” While the mystery added some action to our romance and was an excellent addition to the plot, I felt the history detracted from the main story. I grew increasingly frustrated with Magdalena, the heroine of this portion, as she dealt with the problems with her beau.
I haven’t read many books about the Amish, but of those I have perused, Ms. Newport’s stories seem the most grounded. She creates very human characters and places them in realistic situations, showing us that people are indeed people wherever you go. While this sequel to her Accidentally Amish is not quite as riveting as that book was, it is still a good read and I enjoyed joining Annie and Rufus on this next step of their journey.