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Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the…

Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish (1989)

by Sue Bender

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Plain and Simple (1)

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Reading this slim little volume was like sitting down in your favourite armchair with a hot cup of tea at the end of a long day: soothing, comforting and deliciously peaceful. Built around Bender's fascination with Amish quilts, this is the story of how her interest became a full-fledged quest for a better and calmer life. Bender went to stay with two different Amish families over the course of a few years, and tried to use her experiences in their communities to pinpoint what was missing from her life and reframe it in a way that balanced Amish values with modern American living. Unexpectedly relatable, interesting and quite lovely. ( )
  elliepotten | Apr 1, 2016 |
Ugh. I have more to say about this 149 page book than I have the energy for tonight.

First of all, this author is the kind of "artsy" that I find overwhelmingly irritating. Shallow, very concerned with making sure she appears "artsy", likes to use short stupid phrases that she thought up in the shower and hastily wrote out on the steamy bathroom mirror. Finds that she must use ALL the stupid short phrases because she's just so enamored with her own "artistic" talent that she can't bear to leave one of them out. It's hard to get past that and see her story.

So, let's get past that and go on to her story. Basically, she observed a couple of Amish communities, played the Amish game for awhile, and then came home to find that none of it really stuck. I know this book is all about all the ways that it supposedly really stuck---but, no, she totally missed it.

Several times she talks down her first hostess, Emma. Emma is stuck in a lifestyle, Emma has no voice, Emma has no passions..blah, blah, blah. The author obviously lives on staunch Feministic principles, so it's going to take more than a few weeks with the Amish to help her see the reality of the situation. At one point, when talking about a quilting day that her second hostesses had, she says they were, "seeking beyond the limits of their assigned roles" in having some women over for a celebratory quilting bee. She makes it sound as if they were living in rebellion by organizing something on their own, carrying it out to completion, and enjoying themselves through it all. No, actually, there is such a thing as being content, happy, fulfilled, satisfied, and blessed in homemaking. It's not a role forced on these women---it's a choice they've made lovingly, and peacefully. I feel like the author wanted them to defend themselves or to somehow see what they were "missing". As a homemaker, "submissive" wife, mother of many, homeschooler, wearer of dresses and long skirts, and grower outer of my longish hairer, I roll my eyes at the idiocy of this author. I stamp my clunky black nun shoe in defiance. I hitch up my skirt, hitch up my buggy, and say, "Nevermore shalt my bretheren, sisteren, and childeren be subjected to the smarmy, slimy wiles of the..."

Ok, I think that's about all for now. Basically, I wasn't super impressed. BUT---I do love all things Amish and I really loved her quilt analogies. I also liked how she was pretty honest about her shortcomings. I just wish she wasn't so obviously proud of them, as well. It made it very difficult to like her. ( )
  lostinavalonOR | Feb 25, 2014 |
2 stars is pretty generous, in my opinion. This book seemed more like a book about the process she went through writing a book about visiting Amish families. I found myself wondering where I might be able to find the book she spent so much time "pouring her soul into". The book is largely spent talking about how incredible she is for having completed such a daunting task and is filled with many backhanded remarks regarding Amish communities. She comes off pompous and self-indulgent, not at all like the humbled, pious woman she paints herself out to be. Would recommend skipping this book. ( )
1 vote tealightful | Sep 24, 2013 |
I enjoyed the insights in this book. I enjoyed the simple style. While I find the direction some of Bender's conclusions take to be a little confusing, I appreciated the overall idea.

This isn't a how-to book about how to live simply, nor is it a book about the Amish, really. It's about one woman's dissatisfaction with her harried life and the path she travels to live more deliberately. She doesn't become Amish (sorry for the spoiler), but from them she learns some important lessons about the value of process and product, and about how living deliberately isn't about acting in a certain way but about keeping one's values in mind when making decisions. She takes these lessons into her life and, rather than changing her life entirely, she just incorporates the lessons and gives them her own spin. She learns to choose the life she lives rather than just living it by default, and that seems to be the biggest difference by the end of the book.

I enjoyed watching Bender's growth from stereotype to an appreciation of the nuance in Amish society. She started out thinking of the Amish as all the same, part of a hive and indistinct as individuals, but she gradually learned to see them as individuals with similar struggles to ours. She gave an inkling of the differences between Amish sects, and I found it interesting to see that different communities have different rules while still remaining "Amish."

I especially liked Bender's portraits of the Amish women and how they pushed the limits of the roles allowed them in their community in small and large ways while still keeping sight of the importance of family and community. I loved the Amish midwives. Bender talks about the calm and strength she senses when she's in the presence of one of the Amish midwives; this is just how I feel when I hang out with homebirth midwives, especially those who've been doing it for thirty years or more.

I closed this book with a vague desire to quilt and to make my own clay dishes, but I think I'll table those ideas in the interest of simplicity for right now. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
Woman heads to Amish country to try and figure out why she is so drawn to them and what she is missing in life. ( )
  autumnesf | Aug 23, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sue Benderprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bender, RichardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Richard, Michael, and David — whom I love.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062501860, Paperback)

"I had an obsession with the Amish. Plan and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary."

So begins Sue Bender's story, the captivating and inspiring true story of a harried urban Californian moved by the beauty of a display of quilts to seek out and live with the Amish. Discovering lives shaped by unfamiliar yet comforting ideas about time, work, and community, Bender is gently coaxed to consider, "Is there another way to lead a good life?"

Her journey begins in a New York men's clothing store. There she is spellbound by the vibrant colors and stunning geometric simplicity of the Amish quilts "spoke directly to me," writes Bender. Somehow, "they went straight to my heart."

Heeding a persistent inner voice, Bender searches for Amish families willing to allow her to visit and share in there daily lives. Plain and Simple vividly recounts sojourns with two Amish families, visits during which Bender enters a world without television, telephone, electric light, or refrigerators; a world where clutter and hurry are replaced with inner quiet and calm ritual; a world where a sunny kitchen "glows" and "no distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday."

In nine interrelated chapters--as simple and elegant as a classic nine-patch Amish quilt--Bender shares the quiet power she found reflected in lives of joyful simplicity, humanity, and clarity. The fast-paced, opinionated, often frazzled Bender returns home and reworks her "crazy-quilt" life, integrating the soul-soothing qualities she has observed in the Amish, and celebrating the patterns in the Amish, and celebrating the patterns formed by the distinctive "patches" of her own life.

Charmingly illustrated and refreshingly spare, Plain and Simple speaks to the seeker in each of us.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:26 -0400)

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Plain and simple: a woman's journey to the Amish.

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