The Shunning is not great literature, but that does not mean it is not great. It is a sweet (but not too sweet, just sanitized, like old movies after the formal Production, or Hays Code of 1934), simply written story, and the world can always use more of those, though I am beginning to believe Mrs. Lewis is a one-trick pony, like V.C. Andrews. Whereas most all of Miss Andrews' novels followed the same pattern--five books in a series, the first three being told from the same character's point of view, the fourth book being a sequel to the first three and the fifth being a prequel to the first three)--and the same, recurring theme--the incest element was prevalent, so do Miss Lewis's (and forgive me for comparing her Christian fiction to V.C. Andrews' sinful, but entertaining trash), as they all have something to do with the Amish. But, the author is just writing about what she knows, and that is better than writing about something you do not know, thus risking losing all credibility with your readers (though Dan Brown did it quite convincingly).
Anyway, the characters in this book are extremely well-developed and not portrayed as all good or all bad. Dan Fisher, Katie's first true love, is the only one who seems too perfect, but, as one finds out at the end, he suffered (for lack of a better word) a lapse in judgment that could have cost him his Katie girl, had Katie not been strong enough to run out on her (practically) arranged marriage, or wedding rather, which brings up an interesting question: If Dan truly believed that if one was not "saved" at the time of death, that that person went to hell, then how could he have left Katie behind, unsaved? I have to believe that Dan had all faith that Katie would be spared until she accepted Jesus into her heart.
I personally do not believe one has to be saved (and I know I am going to get a lot of unhelpful votes from this) to go to Heaven because for one thing, what if a little Amish boy or girl dies, let's say, at the age of eight, having known nothing but the Amish church all their lives, and, assuming the Amish are not Christian (which expresses the author's sentiments)--how can God expect them to know the Protestant Jesus, or the way Protestants perceive Jesus? And what about Katie's grandparents, Dawdi David and Mammi Essie, who were surely good people, but terribly misguided.
One may think Bishop John Beiler is a cruel man, as that is Katie's perception, but she did lead him on (though I can, at the same time, understand the pressure to get married, which I will get into later) and spurned him at their own wedding, embarrassing him in front of all their family and friends, not to mention breaking his heart along with his children's. I do not blame him for being angry, but I know he imposed the harshest shunning allowed by Amish law because of his hurt pride over his former bride. He, therefore, was not qualified to judge Katie Lapp's case, and Preacher Yoder or some other Amish authority should have taken over. It would be like a judge judging the defendant who murdered their child. But, that is how it works in the Mormon church, too, of which I was a member for five years of my life, which is why I can relate somewhat to what Katie is going through, and I say somewhat because luckily, my family wasn't Mormon and whatnot. Just as the Amish women have to wear their kapps/bonnets, men and women in the Mormon church who have been through a Mormon temple for their endowments (a sort of rite of passage ceremony) have to wear certain garments that are supposed to be worn under regular, or "worldly" undergarments, for the rest of their lives, not even taking them off for sleep. There are other similarities, but the glaring similarity is that with both sects, it is not so important that you really and truly believe all these things as long as you do them--rather, these cults all focus on the the outer person, not the inner person.
Very good book. Highly recommended.
P.S. Even though it can be an annoyance, I would have liked the story to be more peppered with the Amish language/lingo, with a glossary of terms tacked onto the back (like in Christian author Liz Curtis Higgs's four novels set in seventeenth century Scotland). Such adds richness to any story.
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