Book Review: Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish

Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish
Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the insights in this book. I enjoyed the simple style. While I find the direction some of Bender’s conclusions take to be a little confusing, I appreciated the overall idea.

This isn’t a how-to book about how to live simply, nor is it a book about the Amish, really. It’s about one woman’s dissatisfaction with her harried life and the path she travels to live more deliberately. She doesn’t become Amish (sorry for the spoiler), but from them she learns some important lessons about the value of process and product, and about how living deliberately isn’t about acting in a certain way but about keeping one’s values in mind when making decisions. She takes these lessons into her life and, rather than changing her life entirely, she just incorporates the lessons and gives them her own spin. She learns to choose the life she lives rather than just living it by default, and that seems to be the biggest difference by the end of the book.

I enjoyed watching Bender’s growth from stereotype to an appreciation of the nuance in Amish society. She started out thinking of the Amish as all the same, part of a hive and indistinct as individuals, but she gradually learned to see them as individuals with similar struggles to ours. She gave an inkling of the differences between Amish sects, and I found it interesting to see that different communities have different rules while still remaining “Amish.”

I especially liked Bender’s portraits of the Amish women and how they pushed the limits of the roles allowed them in their community in small and large ways while still keeping sight of the importance of family and community. I loved the Amish midwives. Bender talks about the calm and strength she senses when she’s in the presence of one of the Amish midwives; this is just how I feel when I hang out with homebirth midwives, especially those who’ve been doing it for thirty years or more.

I closed this book with a vague desire to quilt and to make my own clay dishes, but I think I’ll table those ideas in the interest of simplicity for right now.

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4 Replies to “Book Review: Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish

  1. This is one book that I have read several times over the past 15 years or so and I have enjoyed it every time. The idea of a simple life appeals to me on various levels and I am working to cut back and have more time to just “be” – both for me and for my children. I am also interested in midwifery stories — got any good ones to recommend?


    1. Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent is a pretty great read about midwifery. As far as fiction goes, I do not like Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives, but I know a lot of people (including a couple of midwives) who do. The Birth House by Ami McKay was pretty good, though.


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