My goodness, time does fly. I read Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, by Sue Bender, a couple of weeks ago and meant to write about it sooner than this, while it was fresher. However, I will take a positive perspective and view this as an opportunity to see what the perspective of time (and other books read) does to my impressions of a book.
I enjoyed Plain and Simple. It was short, and in a large part accurately described by its title. It could be considered a memoir, but a very focused one, as it only addresses one small part of Bender’s life: her obsession with the Amish, culminating in two summers of staying with Amish families for several weeks. Bender is honest and direct in her writing, simply describing her thoughts, feelings, and actions during this journey of hers. The book does not presume to be more than it is; it is about Bender and her own reactions to the Amish. She does not preach and tell us that we must all live simpler lives; she does not even come to the conclusion that she herself must lead a simpler life. Rather, she realizes that she was obsessed by the Amish because she had something to learn from them and their way of living, something that her life was missing and yearning for, but that in the end she cannot and does not want to “become” Amish.
I felt inspired reading about another person’s soul-searching. It was refreshing to read Bender’s clear words and insights into herself. I was also no doubt attracted to this book in part because I myself am intrigued by the Amish. Based on the little I learned from this book, I feel that there are some aspects of their way of living that I could learn from and that I wouldn’t mind emulating, although there are also many aspects that I can easily do without. The characteristic that stands out the most is the way in which the Amish do not make the huge distinction between work and play that most of us do; they simply approach each task that is necessary for their existence as something to be completed in an unrushed manner to the best of their abilities. I would love to approach every aspect of my life with that attitude. On the other hand, their culture contains strict gender roles, with women’s primary role being to bear and care for many children. I would definitely not want to emulate this part of their culture. On a lighter note, I would greatly enjoy accomplishing my every day journeys via horse and buggy, as the Amish do.