Beverly Lewis. The Parting. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2007. See here to purchase the book.
I recently read and reviewed Beverly Lewis’ latest Amish fiction novel, entitled The Wish.
The last few pages of the book had advertisements for other Beverly
Lewis books. I noticed an ad for a series that Beverly Lewis wrote,
entitled “The Courtship of Nellie Fisher.” I learned that the books of
this series were set in the 1960’s and discussed controversies that
beset the Amish community at that time. That intrigued me, so I
requested the book from the library.
Nellie Fisher’s sister, Suzy, drowned recently, and the rumors are
flying. Suzy was in her period of rumspringa when she died. According
to people’s understanding, she had not been baptized and joined the
church prior to her death, so people are wondering about her eternal
soul. And she liked to associate with the English (the non-Amish).
Meanwhile, there are controversies within the Amish community. More
and more Amish people want to use modern technological conveniences,
such as tractors, to assist them in their farming, especially in light
of the drought. But there are also Amish who are embracing a more
evangelical message, one that gives them assurance that they will go to
heaven when they believe in Jesus. This differed from mainstream Amish
thought, which held that people cannot be certain of that. People are
forming independent Bible study groups, and the Amish authorities are
discouraging that, for the simple reason that many who participate in
such groups leave the Amish community. The threat of shunning looms
over those who are involved in these groups, and Nellie's father Reuben is questioning
whether shunning itself is a good idea.
Nellie’s father Reuben and her mother Betsy are becoming involved in
this new movement. Nellie is concerned about this, for she believes
that her parents should follow the Amish straight-and-narrow. As Nellie
reads Suzy’s journal, she learns of the extent to which Suzy associated
with the English—-Suzy even had an English boyfriend—-and Nellie thinks
that her parents, likewise, are alienating themselves from the
community. In addition, a romance is developing between Nellie and
Caleb, who is closely related to the local bishop.
There are other characters and plot-lines. Rosanna cannot have
children of her own, so another woman, Kate, will bear children for
her. There is also Rhoda, who is one of Nellie’s sisters. Rhoda is
somewhat lazy and fails to attract suitors, yet she is somewhat of a
reader: she reads Pilgrim’s Progress, for example.
The book attempted to portray life in a 1960’s Amish community.
Whereas the Beverly Lewis novels that are set in contemporary times
present Amish people using at least some modern technological
conveniences, such as telephones, telephones are anathema in the
1960’s. That actually has an impact, since people can lose contact with
each other without a telephone. Also noteworthy is that the church
services were in German, which many in the congregation could not
understand. That reminds me of Latin masses, or orthodox Jewish
The book was boring for a while, but I became more comfortable with
it halfway through. I cannot really tell you what the attraction was
between Caleb and Nellie: there were many woman who wanted to be Caleb’s
suitor, but Caleb liked Nellie, and I do not know why.
The book also alleviates concerns about Suzy going to hell by
presenting her accepting Christ before her death, and praying for her
parents that they might accept Christ. That works out a little too
well, from an evangelical perspective. I recently watched a Christian
movie, Dear J, in which an evangelist was witnessing
to his agnostic girlfriend, and she died in an accident. We learn that
she accepted Christ before her death, so she would go to heaven with her
boyfriend rather than going to hell. Do things really turn out that
I am interested in reading the next two books in this series, and I
will check them out of the library in the future. I have review books
to read first, though!