Beverly Lewis. The Photograph. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. See here to buy the book.
This is the first book by Beverly Lewis that I have ever read. She writes a lot of Christian fiction about the Amish. In The Photograph, Lily Esch abruptly leaves her Amish family and her Amish community after the death of her parents, and that worries her sister Eva. Meanwhile, an Amish buggy-maker named Jed is traveling by train from Ohio and finds a photograph of an Amish woman with make-up looking into the camera. The photo is inside of a copy of Little Women. Jed is not only puzzled by the boldness of the woman in the photograph, since Amish people are not allowed to get their picture taken, but he is also drawn to the notes in the copy of Little Women—-their sensitivity, longing, and wisdom. Jed himself is trying to move on after the death of his fiancee, who loved books just like he did. While many women are attracted to Jed, they are not exactly what he is looking for in a spouse. Jed is reluctant to fall in love again, until he meets Eva, thinking that she is the woman in the photograph.
This book did not sweep me off my feet, for it was a romance novel, and the ending was rather predictable. Still, it was a delightful read. It even had an endearing sub-plot about an Amish man named Omar who wanted to register to vote because he was enamored with Ronald Reagan, but his Amish community discouraged voting because God’s people are not supposed to be a part of this world.
The book also painted an interesting picture of Amish religion. One Amish person in the book said that Amish people who leave the community really struggle in the outside world because they are not being true to who they are. Jed’s father says that people in grief often pull away from the body of Christ, with disastrous consequences. While many Amish people in the book disapproved of Lily’s departure and were hoping that she might return or be found, there is one character, Tilly, who had left the community years before to marry one of the English, and she offers to Eva her own perspective. While Amish parents are often encouraged to shun their children who leave the community, Tilly’s parents chose not to do so. Tilly appeared in a previous book by Lewis, The River.
Beverly Lewis writes books about the Amish in part because she grew up near Amish farmland, and, in the Acknowledgements, she thanks Amish consultants who have offered helpful feedback to her as a writer.
Will I ever read a book by Beverly Lewis again? There is a part of me that thinks reading romance books is a waste of time. On the other hand, there was a calming feel that I had in reading Lewis. I enjoyed spending time in her Amish setting, the same way that I like spending time in Mayberry when I watch the Andy Griffith Show, or Walnut Grove when I watch Little House on the Prairie. I may very well read more of her books in the future.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.