WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
Type: Amish, Christian Fiction, Contemporary
Basic Plot: Katie Lapp has been raised Old Order Amish from infancy, but her seemingly simple and predictable life is changed when she finds some a secret in her attic.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: I liked how this Amish plot was not centered on romance, but on family, individualism, and peer pressure. Katie finds out the life that she has been living has been little more than a lie and begins to question the Amish ways more and more. Her growing rebellion results in an Amish tradition of shunning. All interaction is cut off from the shunned one, and Katie has to choose to follow either what the church says is right or what she knows is true. The book deals with a different type of enslavement from Communism or legal slavery. The book deals with slavery to religion, social pressure, and a church.
Characters are much less cliché and more developed than some Christian Fiction I have read. Different perspectives are shown, making sure that the reader isn’t trapped in one way of viewing things. Their feelings and emotions are realistic, and though sometimes the characters are emotional and cry, they are not overflowing with tears at the slightest trouble or behave pathetically.
Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: Despite the amazing plot and characters, the style was more mediocre. Descriptions were plain and predictable at times, though not too forced. The setup was good, leaving the plot twist for the very end, with little to none showing what it would be. Some people may think the story is a little slow, but it did move smoother and faster than some Christian books I have read.
Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The moral of the book, I believe, will become more clear in later books, but in this book is opening up to the idea of freedom from religious enslavement. Katie is discontent with her Plain life, wishing she could wear bright clothes or that she could sing non-religious songs. As she thinks on her past and learns more, she realizes that she is merely holding to unreasonable tradition rather than Biblical standards. We should be subject to the Bible, but Katie lives in a society that believes in subjection to manmade laws and traditions. Not all manmade laws and traditions are wrong and unreasonable, but Katie learns that they are not necessarily needed to be righteous, right with God, or to go to heaven, as her friends and family teach. I believe this will be more expounded on in later books. There are small traces of rebellion in action, but I don’t sense a rebellious spirit in Katie, despite her confusion about her religious life.
Overall: 3½/5: Above Average: I honestly think that The Shunning has some of the things that make fine literature, though whether it is a classic or not is debatable. I think girls and women twelve to adults would like to read the story.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Light, Brief Physical Contact and Some Suggestiveness: Boys hug and kiss a girl on the mouth and cheeks that they are dating and engaged to, and a girl lightly and briefly describes how it feels. A man thinks how a girl’s hair felt when he sprinkled her. A man is eager to “demonstrate his love” for his future wife after there wedding, and one of the reasons of father scolds his daughter for not marrying a man is because he “has no woman to warm his bed.” Katie wonders about the feeling of lying about your purity. It is mentioned that a girl had a child outside of marriage, and she cries over her mistake of having intimacy outside of marriage.
Violence: 1/5 Brief, Light Violence: A boy kicks his sister. It is mentioned that a boy pulled his sister’s hair when they were children. A woman burns her fingers in a dream. Chickens’ heads are mentioned to be cut off as part of the wedding preparations and customs.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Possible Misuse: God’s name is possibly taken in vain once.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Light Emotional Content: A woman gives birth to a stillborn daughter, and it is mentioned that she had two miscarriages. A girl’s boyfriend is mentioned to have died, though his body is never found. She visits his grave about twice and often thinks of him. A woman is dying from a disease unknown by the reader. Two women briefly discuss death. Characters cry of varying situations, such as abandonment or death, but none are overly dramatic. A character is shunned, which includes a complete break off in communication with the shunned one, and greatly saddens the shunned one.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Practices of Other Christian” Groups: Characters are Amish and Mennonite. Baptism is done by sprinkling. Certain Amish religious rituals and methods such as confession, women wearing head coverings, the Holy Kiss, and casting lots to pick bishops are mentioned. It is mentioned that characters recite prayers from prayer books. A few times, salvation by works is mentioned, and a boy says his sister will go to hell if she does not stay with the Amish Church, though salvation by faith is thought about by the main character. A Bible verse is either misquoted or not KJV, and a character is mentioned to have had a “paraphrased version of the New Testament.”
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: “Specter” is used for descriptive purposes.
Others: A girl dances once, though it is more like twirling than actually dancing.
Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: Overall I think this book is appropriate for children twelve at the youngest, mainly because of the religious rituals and some of the suggestive content.