I am so sorry that it has been so long since I last updated. Unfortunately, life over the past few months has not turned out like we had hoped. My mother passed away at the end of May due to complications from Philadelphia-Postive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and her bone marrow transplant (which was her only hope of a cure.) She was young, just 52, and it has obviously been a difficult time for our whole family. I spent a good amount of the last 4 months in my parent’s hometown, trying to help as my mom’s health declined. The past 16 months since she was diagnosed have all been hard, but the past 6 have been especially difficult.
As hard as everything has been, there have been a lot of bright spots during this time. We’ve really felt the love of our family and friends. It has also taught me first-hand the importance of kind words and small (or big) good deeds. I’ve also received an incredibly powerful lesson on just how unpredictable life can be, and how we should really make each moment count.
With all of that in mind, it seems like a good time to share about a book that I recently finished. It is called Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life and it was written by Nancy Sleeth. I participate in a program that distributes books for blog reviews, and I was instantly intrigued when this book came up on the list. I’ve written about several similar books in the past, including Better Off and Living More with Less (both links go to my previous reviews.) I enjoyed both of those books, and knowing that Nancy Sleeth (author of Almost Amish) wrote the forward for Living More with Less made this book more intriguing.
In Almost Amish, Mrs. Sleeth covers many aspects of Amish life and then tries to show ways that we can apply the same principles in our lives. She discusses the ways that Amish homes are run, what their church life is like, how they view their families, why buying local is important and how they view technology. The chapters are easy to read and relatively short, and she includes a lot of real-life applications. I was inspired in small ways by each of the chapters, even if it wasn’t the first time that I was reading these concepts.
The book is arranged around 10 principles that the Amish live by, and Sleeth weaves stories from her life into each one. The first principle is that “Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside”. This chapter was really encouraging and includes sections on keeping stuff out of the home, buying quality items, making the kitchen the heart of your home, cleaning out your closets and organizing your storage areas. I think that these ideas are really attractive in our culture, as it seems like most people are realizing that we don’t need to have so much junk, and the idea of an uncluttered, practical home sounds really nice.
The chapters on spiritual life were also very encouraging. I appreciated Sleeth’s focus on small groups and home churches as well as building community with neighbors. She discusses sharing meals and opening your house up to others, and it really moved me to want to allow the neighborhood kids to play in our house more (rather than everyone playing outside) and to reach out even more to our neighbors. I finished those sections with new ideas and ambitions for how to live out what I’d learned.
Another thing that I really liked about this book is that there is a huge focus on forgiveness and kindness. Sleeth doesn’t just encourage hospitality, she goes on to give ideas for ways to go above and beyond when the rest of the world would tell you that you’ve done enough. I was really inspired by these sections.
The main criticisms that I’ve read about this book were in reference to Sleeth’s attitude and how she can come across as holier-than-thou. I understand why people feel that way. Sleeth does come across as someone who has always had perfect kids (she mentions more than once that her kids would NEVER ask for toys or junk food when waiting in the check-out line), always has a perfectly clean, decluttered home in which she entertains most nights of the week, and is all-around fantastic. Despite this, I think that the reason she writes this way is because this book is about what has worked for her, and she just chose to include the successes. It isn’t like a Sally Clarkson book, though, where she shares very many of her ups and downs.
In addition, there were sections in there that made me cringe a bit. Sleeth seems to have a particular lack of fondness for bloggers and feminists, so, yeah… She even quotes Proberbs 18:2 “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” and then she adds her commentary of “Think of blog posts here, or comments to blogs.” While I appreciate the food for thought, it would be no less of a stretch to say that people who want to write books about how awesome they are would fall into the same Proverbs 18:2 description. Her views on child training focus mainly on the typical punitive verses that you see quoted so often, and she skips over the grace-filled ones. I can understand, though, that the Amish are pretty hard-core about child training, so that’s probably why. Despite this, I appreciate that she doesn’t specifically encourage corporal punishment or even punitive parenting, even if she hints at it.
My only other criticism is that Sleeth seems to paint a very rosy view of the Amish life. One of the things that I really enjoyed about Better Off and some of the other books on the subject is that they showed the challenges of an Amish life, and how they still have difficulties. I can imagine that she might’ve chosen to omit this part because it would undermine the basic premise of the book, which is that the Amish are to be emulated.
Overall, I think this book is good. I would recommend it to someone looking for additional reading on voluntary simplicity. I think that I would still choose Living More with Less or one of the other books on the subject if someone only wanted to read one book on the subject, but this is a good book if you want a little nudge to continue along the path. It was just what I needed right now, and it was good enough to overlook the parts that I didn’t like as much.