One of the most distinctive Christmas stories I’ve ever read is A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clapton. It deals with the struggles of a young woman named Anna Mae, who left her Amish traditions and family to marry the man she loved. Three years later, she is expecting a baby and finds herself longing to be with her family again. But revisiting the community after being shunned is not an easy task.
Just as its title would suggest, the story is written in a plain and simple style. Yet, it does not in any way lack appeal. In her simple way, the author describes the intensity between a disappointed father and a well-meaning daughter in a way that one can feel their true emotions. The anxiety builds inside Anna Mae until the moment she sees her father again. Silent desires are clearly felt by both characters and readers, as readers wonder if this family conflict can ever be resolved.
In spite of how she is feeling about her father, Anna Mae is determined to have her little one know her family. With the help of her husband Kellan, she contacts her sister-in-law, Katheryn, to see if a Christmas visit would ever be possible. Both Katheryn and Anna Mae are determined to get the family together again, and after receiving signs from God that this visit must happen, they go against all that they have ever been taught to ensure that it does. But as the day of the reunion draws near, these women of faith must suffer the wrath of the men in their lives.
Through every unpleasantness that the human beings of the story hurl at her, Anna Mae’s faith remains firm. Her only support is her husband and her sister-in-law, but still she will not be discouraged. It is the story of a shy but strong woman who will not let man’s bitterness stand in the way of what God has called her to do.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). In the end, one commends these women for resisting prejudice and holding firm to what they know is God‘s calling. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who believes in everyday miracles, the importance of family, and how God can speak even to the least of us. This plain and simple story turns out be extraordinary in rekindling faith in everyone. – Lexie Owen, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Amy Clipson's A Plain and Simple Christmas returns to the Amish venue she has focused on in all of her previous books. Her characters are basic, the dialogue is somewhat wooden (and laced generously with German words that can easily be figured out within context of the scene), and the plot is rather predictable. Nevertheless, there is a down home feeling to the story that will appeal to readers.
The central character is Anna Mae McDonough, an Amish girl who left her community four years ago in order to marry an outsider (an "Englisher"). Anna does not regret her decision, but she longs to be reunited with her family and Amish friends, and what better time to try to heal old wounds than Christmas?
The reunions abound with large amounts of food. A typical breakfast includes orange juice, bacon, eggs, coffee, rolls and butter, preserves, fresh milk, and enough cholesterol to cause ten heart attacks. The women talk about Anna's pending delivery of a baby very shortly after Christmas, of work on their farms, of chores and crafts and children and animals and church. Much of the book is this sort of filler, but it succeeds in revealing life in an Amish community and it shows the simple, pure, and conservative activities and ways of the central characters.
David, a male lead in the story, very much resents that Kathryn dared to invite the shunned Anna back to their community, until he begins to see how her return brings joy to everyone she comes in contact with. Not only does David forgive Kathryn, but he confesses that she has created the best Grischtdaag (Amish holiday) he has had in a long time. When Anna's baby is born, she names him in honor of her Amish relatives, thus securing the family unity in yet another way.
This book includes Amish recipes and group discussion questions at the back. It is a lighthearted, short tale that will pull at the heartstrings. But isn't that what we all want from a Christmas story? – Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
In the tradition of her widely popular Kauffman Amish Bakery series, author Amy Clipston tells the tale of Anna Mae McDonough who was shunned by her family four years ago when she left her Amish community in Lancaster County, PA, to marry an “Englisher” (non Amish) man and move with him to Baltimore. Now, eight months pregnant when her first child, she longs to return home for Christmas to reconcile with her family, especially her stern father, who is the religious leader for her former Amish church district. So Anne Mae writes a letter to Kathryn Beiler, her brother’s wife, to enlist her help. Kathryn asks her husband, David, if she should arrange Anna Mae’s visit. David cautions her that a visit would cause too much stress in the family and instead suggests they visit Anna Mae and her husband in the spring. However, Kathryn arranges the visit anyway, believing in her heart that it’s God’s will for the family to heal. When Anna Mae arrives in Lancaster for Christmas, she doesn’t receive the welcome she expects and her world begins to fall apart, leaving her to question her place in her family – and her faith in God. A book filled with love, the pain of being separated from one’s family, and the determination to follow God’s will regardless of the outcome, A Plain and Simple Christmas is an inspiring page-turner that will keep you guessing what happens next…right to the very last page.