The Amish heroine lives with her parents, siblings, and widowed aunt on a verdant farm in Lancaster County. She is all but betrothed to her suitor, an Amish man whom she does not love. Enter a handsome English stranger, an artist who boards with the protagonist’s family to paint the picturesque folk and their surrounding locale. Our heroine falls hopelessly in love with him, and he with her. Underneath various subplots, including a brother’s romance, the mysterious death of a secondary character, and the protagonist’s clairvoyant intuitions, throbs the essential question: which guy will get the girl?
So goes a story line as intelligible to contemporary readers of Amish fiction as the now-familiar concepts of Rumspringa and shunning. Yet this narrative comes from a book over a century old: Helen Reimensnyder Martin’s 1905 novel Sabina: A Story of the Amish (Thrill of the Chaste p. 28).
Sabina was the first Amish fiction novel, and, as Valerie Weaver-Zercher explains in Thrill of the Chaste, by exhibiting 2 of 3 key elements–“its reliance on rural particularism and its use of romance as an engine of plot”–it already resembled the Amish fiction novels of today.
Chapter 2 of Thrill of the Chaste, “The DNA of Amish Romance Novels”, traces the development of the Amish fiction novel and the various ways Amish characters have been portrayed through the years.
Martin’s derogatory presentation of the Amish was followed three years later by an idealized portrayal in Cora Gottschalk Welty’s The Masquerading of Margaret (1908). Other notable Amish fiction works appeared in the 1930s and 1960s, before the current boom began with Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning, published in 1997.
Thrill of the Chaste giveaway winner
Johns Hopkins is giving away a copy of Thrill of the Chaste. I tallied your entries from both giveaway posts, and used random.org to generate a winner.
The winner is comment #17 from the “Submit your Questions” post, Sharon. Sharon please email your info to me and I will pass it on to Johns Hopkins who will send you your book. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Rosanna of the Amish cover image