When I first picked up my first book by Beverley Lewis (not The Shunning but a book of her short stories) I must admit I was apprehensive. A friend had decided to pass on the book knowing my interest in reading. I’ve always enjoyed mysteries or the classics, though, and wasn’t wholly convinced I would enjoy a commentary piece with Christian undertones. But, I gave it a shot and I have to say I really enjoyed it.
Still, when I heard about Lewis’ best-seller turning into a movie, I didn’t instantly go out to buy the book or watch the movie. Actually I avoided it altogether, vowing that I wouldn’t read The Shunning because I heard that it was very sad and well not very nice. Then one day our local Christian bookstore was having a sale, right after my birthday and I found in the fiction section a copy of The Shunning (the movie tie-in version) selling for an amazingly low price. I bought it thinking since it was so cheap I would give it a shot.
The Shunning is the story of Katie Lapp, an ordinary Old Order Amish young woman living in Lancaster County in the Amish Community of Hickory Hollow. Katie is, by all accounts, an ordinary Amish girl with Amish family, Amish beliefs and an Amish upbringing. Katie’s one problem though is, her struggle to be Amish with it’s rules about how to live and what to believe. In particular, she has doubts about whether her vows to follow the church and then to marry the Bishop were the right choices for her to make. But with the impending marriage to the bishop only days away, Katie discovers a secret that threatens to unravel her entire life. Can Katie put aside this secret, do what is expected of her, or will her finding it cause everything she has ever known in her life to change?
As I said, I was never keen to see the film version of The Shunning, that is not until I read the book (complete with pictures taken during the filming of the movie). After that I grew slightly more curious as to what they had done in the film version. Looking at the photographs taken during filming and watching the trailer, I noticed subtle differences between book and film that change the story slightly. I still want to see the film though starring Danielle Panabaker (the girl who brought sweet Layla to life in Disney’s Sky High). I really want to see how she brought Katie to life and whether Katie of the films is as head-strong as in the book.
In My Humble Opinion:
I wasn’t sure I would but I loved the book and not just because it is a Christian book. Actually, if you really study the beliefs of the Amish discussed in The Shunning, you’ll see that their belief are not wholly in keeping with Christian beliefs. That they seem to have taken the Bible and stretched some of the teaching to an extreme while ignoring other teachings completely. The Shunning (as with all Beverley Lewis books) is more a commentary of the different levels and types of Christianity that exist and their different beliefs.
Other than the interesting lifestyle ad beliefs of the Amish though, the book had another appeal for me: that of its main character Katie Lapp. I’m not sure if the appeal of Katie came from the fact that Katie is a lover of music just like I am or the fact that I think Beverley Lewis described Katie with me in mind since her description…
“At least the Lord God had done me a favor and put a right nice color in my hair – reddish brown hues – and when the sun from my window shone on it just right,there were streaks like golden ribbons in it.”
… is how you would describe my hair to a tee – right down to the gold ribbons that are visible when the sun catches it in just the right way.
But, I don’t think the greatness of The Shunning comes from any personal similarities to the characters. I think it’s more universal than that. The Shunning is ultimately a story of a girl struggling to find her place in a world which she does not think she truly belongs in. And isn’t that something that we all go through at some stage in our lives? We go along with the life we lead and one day we suddenly think “I don’t truly feel I belong”. I think this is why the story is so appealing. Though none of us have ever felt the anguish of growing up Amish and not feeling Amish, all of us, I think, can agree that there is some aspect of our lives that makes us feel out of place. Perhaps it’s a family trait (physical or mental) that our family possesses but we don’t. Perhaps it’s a disagreement over religion. Perhaps it’s an inability to something everyone else can. Or perhaps it’s something a simple as not liking what our family likes. Whatever it is, we all feel a little like outcasts sometimes, just like Katie. As for the Amish references, they’re so interesting as a way to delve into a new culture and think about our own religious belief and lifestyle choices.
The Shunning is an absolutely amazing book! But don’t just take my word for it. Read it yourself and I’m sure you’ll be just as hooked as I’ve become.