I must admit, for the first few years of my life, I never really enjoyed Christian fiction. I think the main problem I had with Christian fiction was that I felt like the writer was always trying to convert the reader (as if they thought the reader wasn’t already a Christian and had to tell them to become one) or that they were trying to tell them how to be a better Christian (as if to say, you’re rubbish as a Christian; this is how you should be doing it). And all this at the expense of the plot. It was almost as though in writing about how to be a (better) Christian, they had forgotten, oh, hang on, I’m actually writing this for people who are wanting to read a story,not listen to a sermon, so maybe there should be a decent story in this book. It was rather infuriating. And this kept me away from many Christian novels of the past.
But, when I first began to peruse through a Beverly Lewis book (which happened to be a collection of short stories) I was captivated by the excellence of the plot and how it intertwined with (rather than being compromised at the expense of the Christian message). And when I picked up The Shunning (pst, check out the link to see the book review), I was enven more captivated by the beauty of the intertwining plot so that I could hardly put the book down. And when I had read the last book The Reckoning, I was enthusiastic to get another series and to read more of this Amish world. So when I discovered that a series of Beverly Lewis books were on sale at my local Christian bookshop (don’t you just LOVE a book sale), I splurged and bought the books and began exploring the world of The Thorn.
Two sisters, two very different lives. Rose lives an Amish life full of Amish pleasures but her one temptation is their next-door neighbour bishop’s fiesty foster son, Nick, who is keen to explore the beyond the boundaries of their Amish upbringing into the English (non-Amish) world. Hen, on the other hand, has been living that world and is keen to return to the safety and simplicity of her Amish upbringing. Her one problem: her English husband. Will both sisters find the balance between the Amish traditions of their youth and the modern, free world?
Alright, so I have to admit, I’m not always keen to have the books I read be adapted into movies – usually because, something always tends to get lost or distorted when you hand a story over to a film-maker. I can’t tell you how many films I’ve been disappointed in because I’ve expected so much (because of the book) and been delivered so little.
But, in the case of Beverly Lewis’ The Thorn, I really do think I need to make an exception. I happen to now own film versions of The Shunning and The Confession (the second in that series) and I must admit I really did enjoy visually seeing the Amish world they created in the films – the farming atmosphere, the interactions between people. Since The Thorn is largely about the difference between the Amish and the English (or non-Amish) world, I think that a film which demonstrated the differences and how these differences affect people would be excellent. (Something, perhaps to think about film-makers 😉 )
In My Humble Opinion:
As I have already said, this book is really, aside from many other themes, about the intersection between the Amish and the non-Amish world. For as long as I have read Beverly Lewis’ books, this life that the Amish lead has fascinated me. Perhaps it’s because I have never actually met an Amish person (there are no Amish people where I live). I just found their way of living and thinking to be of such great paradox.
There are many beliefs that the Amish have that Christians have too. We believe that people are more important than possessions. We believe that children should learn to obey those in authority and that carries through to adulthood. We believe that pride and anger are sinful. We believe that we should love and try to get along with everyone. And the Amish believe this too.
But, it is astonishing to see how paradoxical the Amish world is. While the Amish believe that pride is a sin and try to stop things from happening that would cause pride in their hearts, they are very disparaging of anyone who does not, for example, dress like them because they think its prideful and are proud of their humility. But, wait! That’s also prideful. To be proud not to be proud is being proud (I hope you caught all that). If anyone is pleased with herself for doing (or not doing something) – like wearing fancy clothes – and is disparaging towards others because they do not have that willpower or whatever they need, that person is demonstrating pride. It’s kind of like saying: I’m better than you because I don’t wear fancy clothes and I’m right with God, you aren’t. And doesn’t that just sound like the most arrogant, prideful thing you’ve ever heard.
There are other paradoxes too like how the Amish desire peaceful living – simple farm living amongst simple people – and yet they will shun people and chase them out of the area if they do not adhere to Amish guidelines. They are openly disparaging towards anyone who does not follow the Amish traditions especially if they are considered to be part of the Amish community and have the harshest punishments for those they believe are disobeying. How is that peaceful living?
All through The Thorn this one question sneaks in: is it better to be Amish or English? Which one is preferable? Which one is right? The Amish practice some good principles but their world is fraught with paradoxes which make things difficult. Which side do you choose? Both sisters Rose and Hen battle with this one. They have both been raised in the Amish way, raised to believe it is the only right way. But their associations have taught them that the Amish way is not the only way and may not even be the right way. Now they have a decision to make: Amish or English? Which way should they go? Which path should they choose? Hen’s choice is more explicit. Does she stay in the English world or leave it? Rose’s choice is more implicit. She knows she should stay in her Amish world but there is a tug from the outside world which she is battling to stop. But, if you think the choice is easy, add to their decisions their family, their futures, their own hearts and their faith and the decision becomes almost impossible.
What would you choose: Amish or English? Would you like to live a simple life of faith with simple problems to deal with or would you miss your modern conveniences (like electricity) too much? And what do you think Rose an Hen should do? Should the follow their hearts or their heads? Should they choose Amish or English?
Read the book and see what each sister decides. Amish or English? That is the question. Then (using your modern computer ;)) head on over to The Challenge page and make sure you update your reading score. I really hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.