Thursday, July 15, 2010

A book review: Rumspringa

Sr. Ann Marie asked me about how I liked Rumspringa: To Be or Not To Be Amish, by Tom Shachtman, so I thought I'd post a review :)

This is actually a re-read, since I read a public library copy about 2 years ago. I mentioned that I enjoyed it, and my friend Karen lent me her copy. I too am fascinated by the Amish, so I found it an intriguing read the first time around. In tandem, Mike and I also watched The Devil's Playground, the documentary that was filmed to correspond with this book. That I highly recommend. It was very good, and I believe it won some film awards when it first came out.

The book is a little bit of a different story. Like I mentioned, I loved it when I first read it. This time, I'm seeing some of its flaws a bit. I will say that the author did a lot of research for this book, and you'll find out a lot of solid factual information about Amish beliefs and how they came to be. And we all know that I love personal stories, and those are in here in abundance. What I don't like is how disorganized the book feels. The author divides the book into chapters covering different aspects of Amish belief. Fine. But he'll start out with a personal anecdote or two, then segue into the historical foundation of the particular belief, and go on about that for quite a while. Suddenly, we're back to personal stories. There are some characters that he comes back to repeatedly, but also others that he mentions only for one or two stories. There is a lot of jumping around, and forget about keeping track of who everyone is.

I think even the author recognizes this problem, because whenever he mentions a character that he is chronicling multiple times, he'll add a caveat, such as: "JoAnn Y., the young Amish girl that left the community, thought about being a fashion model, and is now attending a Baptist church..." so that we can re-familiarize ourselves with who the heck he's talking about. He also has this habit of using only the first initial of a person's last name, to keep them anonymous. It really gets on my nerves :) Just give her a pseudonym. Call her Sarah, or something. And don't give more than one person the same pseudonym. But I find all the "Marcia H. and her family, the H's, live on a farm in LeGrange County, Indiana. The H family has for generations..." very distracting. See what I mean? I'm sure there is a different way to write this that would avoid this problem.

So, overall, I do recommend this book as a fascinating read, but one that I caution is poorly written, at least in my opinion. The content is good, so if you're interested in the Amish, check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the review. I appreciate the time you took to write it--and your honesty in stating your opinion. I have a book store gift certificate but I think rather than use it for that, I'll try the library!


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