Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: Almost Amish

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
by Nancy Sleeth

Available as: paperback
Pages: 272
Publisher: Tyndale House
Release date: April 1, 2012
Suggested tags: non-fiction, religion, Amish

From Goodreads:
"Have you ever stopped to think, "Maybe the Amish are on to something"? Look around. We tweet while we drive, we talk while we text, and we surf the Internet until we fall asleep. We are essentially plugged in and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rather than mastering technology, we have allowed technology to master us. We are an exhausted nation. No one has enough time, everyone feels stressed out, and our kids spend more hours staring at a screen each week than they do playing outside. It's time to simplify our lives, make faith and family the focal point, and recapture the lost art of simple living. Building on the basic principles of Amish life, Nancy Sleeth shows readers how making conscious choices to limit (and in some cases eliminate) technology's hold on our lives and getting back to basics can help us lead calmer, more focused, less harried lives that result in stronger, deeper relationships with our families, friends, and God."

I received this as an ebook from NetGalley.

I wanted to read this book because I've been fascinated with the Amish way of life for as long as I can remember. The idea of making my own life slower, simpler, and more sustainable really appealed to me, so I was interested to read what Sleeth had to say in Almost Amish. Unfortunately, what she said and the way she said it completely turned me off.

Simply put, there is not enough about Amish life in this book for me. There are little tidbits of information here and there about how the Amish live and what they believe, and then there is a whooooole lot of detail about how Sleeth and her family transformed themselves and their lives. I expected the book be a sort of "here's how and why the Amish live the way they do, and why we try to live that way too." But it was more like the information about Amish life was just thrown in where applicable and repeated in later chapters when necessary to justify the changes the family had made.

There are some smaller changes suggested by Sleeth that readers could easily put into practice, such as starting a garden, giving away unneeded material possessions, and disconnecting from social media a bit. But for the most part, the changes that the family made are not small things that everyone could adopt in their own lives; this family gave up their jobs and reworked their entire existence to pursue a drastically different way of life. The way even the smaller ideas are presented and the way the family seems to take everything to the extreme kind of pushed the ideas themselves to the background; the focus throughout the book was on the family, not on encouraging change for good.

I'm sure Sleeth didn't intend to come across this way, but page after page read like, "Look at us! Look at the sacrifices we have made! We are such good Christians! Don't you want to be like us?" There are underhanded little hints at how privileged and fortunate they were before they went "almost Amish"; lines like "my son the doctor" and "we give so much away!" pop up quite frequently. It came off as boastful to me, and it really turned me off of this family. It all read like an insincere stunt, as if they weren't changing their lives to truly better themselves or the world around them, but rather to have a better "face" to show everyone else.

I suppose I could just be bitter because this book was so far from what I expected. If I had known that Almost Amish was a book about this family and why they think they've got life figured out and why you should be more like them, rather than a book about Amish living and how to make realistic changes in your own life, it wouldn't have been on my to-read list.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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