"Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish" by Sue Bender

I finished this book a few weeks ago. I read it during Dan's night nursings. Maybe that influenced my opinion of it? All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed all the parts that weren't whiny self-analysis, so like 20% of the book?

I guess it didn't help that it was hard to respect a woman who would leave her husband and kid for weeks and weeks at a time on some strange unexplainable quest to live with Amish people. Even if she gained invaluable understanding about herself, even if the way it influenced her art was immeasurably good, for me at my current stage of life it is SO impossible to relate to even coming close to wanting to be apart from my family for that long. And then, there's the gaping hole in the story where she never, ever discusses that. I mean, she mentions her husband a grand total of once during the whole story? I'm sorry, if the book was supposed to be about your wonderful eye-opening experience, wasn't that part of the experience? And a significant part? Maybe not for her, but it would have been for me, I think.

I knew next to nothing about Amish customs and culture before reading this book. And honestly, although I learned some interesting things about them that parallel Mormonism, I was highly disappointed in the lack of basic information about them. I guess that's not what the book was intended to be, but I would have found it more fascinating than the inner thoughts of an artist living among them.

It's a non-fiction memoir type book, written by a clinical psychologist, so it's not like there really was much "plot" to expect, but here's the basic gist: woman feels drawn to the Amish, drops everything and goes to live with some for a while, experiences multiple epiphanies about life, comes home, repeat.

Maybe I just felt like she was whining when really she wasn't, because most of her "whininess" revolved around things that I must do every day in order for our house to function; things like the dishes and the laundry. I'm pretty sick of women complaining about things like that. Especially because recently I timed unloading the dishes, and it takes less than five minutes people! Quit complaining, it's annoying.

I also found her repetition annoying. I felt like in every chapter she came to some kind of life-altering epiphany about how to relax and enjoy the boring parts of life. But frequent epiphanies lose my interest quickly because they are mundane and hard to believe.

I think this *may* be an interesting book for our Relief Society book club. The other women might have insight on Bender's thoughts that could help me appreciate it better. All in all, this seems like a book which is better when read as a group (and not necessarily all of it!) and then discussed than read by one's self quickly.

Although, my opinion of Bender and her epiphanies increased significantly when, at the end, in the epilogue, she says that her experience with the Amish changed her but didn't make her want to be Amish. It was nice to know that for all of her epiphanies, she is still human and not able to completely change, even if she had a major, life-altering experience.

Mostly, the book left me with an extreme curiosity about Amish Quilts. I wish she had included better photos than the one on the front cover! I'd like to learn more about their quilts, as well as their dolls. Actually, I'd like to learn more about the Amish in general!


  1. Haha I loved this review! The sentiments you expressed reminded me of when I tried reading Eat Pray Love. I returned it to the library after only the first few chapters because I couldn't relate at all to her leaving a perfectly good marriage on some quest to find herself in foreign countries.

  2. My parents live close to Amish communities in Southern Maryland and we've seen them driving their horse-drawn carts on the road. I also went with my mom to the Amish market and let me tell you, they have some of the most delicious natural, freshly-baked goodies I've ever had! Breads, pretzel calzones, pies, cookies, salsas, jams, blueberry yogurt dipped preztles... YUM! But that about sums up the extent of my knowledge of their lifestyle. It would definitely be interesting to learn more!

  3. Seriously Staci! I saw the preview for that movie and was like, "I think I'll pass on this one."

    Maybe she just wanted to keep her thoughts about her family life private and separate from her pyschological journey? That's what my mom thinks; she said that in her experience clinical psychologists or psychiatrists or psychoanalysts or whichever she is - I forget - they tend to do a lot of separating of their private lives from other parts of their lives. Which is so weird to me since my "private life" is my whole life right now. Well, at least, it permeates into all aspects of my life, you know?

    I guess Sue Bender is like in her 70's now or something, and does lots of keynote speaking things. Maybe she's a better speaker than she is writer. Honestly, I liked the book okay, just I got sick of her whining about how hard it is being a "free spirit" and having to do chores. Like, suck it up lady.


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