A writer’s life is filled with “What Ifs?” What if an Amish woman discovers her father has a tattoo? (Lorie’s Heart) What if the bishop’s daughter’s long-standing love interest decides he wants to experience the English world? (Courting Emily) What if a wealthy heiress hides out on an Amish farm? (Saving Gideon) This is exactly how my latest novel Just Plain Sadie came about. What if an Amish woman falls in love with a Mennonite man?
Just Plain Sadie is my seventh Amish book and though research into such a complex group of people is never-ending, I have to admit that I don’t know nearly as much about the Mennonites. Mostly the basics: that the Mennonites broke from the Amish over shunning way back when, now some drive cars and have electricity. But upon delving further I discovered that the Mennonites are more varied than even the Amish.
Last year on my trip to Pennsylvania I met a Mennonite man at Roots Market. After talking with him a bit, I realized that he and his church were much more conservative than even my Old Order Lancaster friends. See, he had loaned me a cart to haul my books and things from the car and when it was time to go, I offered him a book as a thank you. He wouldn’t even touch it because he said it looked like a romance novel. Their church didn’t allow their members to read romance novels. My Lancaster Amish friends not only read my books, they help me get the details correct! Intriguing…
The Mennonites run the gamut between ultraconservative, driving a horse and buggy, wearing prayer kapps and homemade clothes, to very modern, you might not even know the person sitting next to you in the dentist office waiting area is a Mennonite. I have a Mennonite friend whose profile pic on Facebook (yes, he has a Facebook) is of him and his wife wearing NFL jerseys. More than the issue of shunning separates the Mennonites from the Amish.
Interestingly enough, though the Mennonites in general are considered less conservative than the Amish (though you can see from my Roots encounter that this is not necessarily the case), they are adamant when it comes to following rules. It’s as if the leadership believes, “We have given you this. Be thankful and don’t push the boundaries.”
I’ve heard countless stories of how the Amish ‘get around’ certain aspects of their Ordnung. Can’t have a windshield on your buggy? Wrap it in visqueen. Can’t have rubber tires? Replace the wheels with another, acceptable kind. Can only have a phone in the barn? Move the second receiver into the house (plugged into solar power, of course).
These differences in attitudes toward the rules and how best to follow them became a source of conflict between Sadie and her Mennonite interest, Ezra Hein. Add in a longtime boyfriend who wants to travel and a mother who can’t quite let go and that’s Just Plain Sadie.
As with the Amish, research into the Mennonite culture could last a lifetime. And maybe I’ll take the reader back to Taylor Creek and the Mennonites of Oklahoma one day.
What about you? Have you had any experience with the Mennonite culture? Were they conservative? Modern? Or somewhere in between? Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your stories!
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Amy Lillard loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family…and maybe homemade tacos…and nail polish. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amy is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, two spoiled cats, and one very lazy beagle. Oh, and don’t forget the stray kitty that has taken up residence on her front porch. When she’s not creating happy endings, she’s chauffeuring her teen prodigy to guitar lessons and orchestra concerts. She has a variety of hobbies, but her favorite is whatever gets her out of housework.
Amy is an award winning author with more than twenty novels and novellas in print. She is a member of RWA and ACFW and loves to hear from readers. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. For links to the various sites, check her website: www.amywritesromance.com.
Her latest book, Just Plain Sadie, is now available.
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