Friday, February 15, 2013

The Lesson

Author Suzanne Woods Fisher takes her readers into the world of the Amish, a community that is often much misunderstood by outsiders, in her newest book, The Lesson.

Nineteen-year-old Mary Kay Lapp, better known as M.K., is the least likeliest person to be a school teacher. She was one of those students that had difficulty paying attention in class, was constantly bored, and couldn’t wait to graduate. But after the community’s teacher, Alice Smucker, decides to take the first three weeks of school off to recover from injuries M.K. caused, M.K. is appointed by the school board to be the substitute teacher.

M.K. would rather do just about anything than be stuck in a class room all day again. When a local sheep farmer is mysteriously shot dead in his field, a “crime” M.K. hears but not sees, her detective antennae instantly go into high alert. She pictures herself as a sort of detective and is just itching to “help” the authorities solve this mysterious murder. Also, she keeps dreaming of the day when she can leave her little Amish community behind and travel around the world.

So, when she is forced to teach school, at first she is very reluctant to do so. The position is supposed to be for only three weeks, but of course, things don’t go as planned. And, as a teacher, M.K. is forced to deal with students that try her patience, much like she tried Miss Smucker’s patience in the past.

As if all this weren’t enough, two young men, one born Amish who M.K. has known since childhood, and one who wasn’t born Amish but has been baptized as an Amish and is new to the community, are vying for M.K.’s attention and affection. Needless to say, it’s difficult for her to keep her mind on her work.

What I Like: I like reading stories about the Amish. It’s a fascinating culture, and one I was exposed to during my childhood as there were Amish who lived within a buggy ride of our small town. The Amish came to our town to shop at the hardware store there, and it wasn’t unusual to see a horse and buggy tied up out front of the store. I have a great respect for these quiet, industrious people, and I always like learning more about them. The text is also peppered with plenty of Pennsylvania Dutch sayings that lend themselves well to the story.

The author also includes a list of discussion questions at the end of the book.
What I Dislike: Although this is a good story, and I did enjoy reading it, there were a few things I didn’t like about it. For instance, the author over-used the word “zoomed” in the narrative. M.K. had a scooter that she rode most everywhere she went. When talking about it, the author kept saying she “zoomed” here or she “zoomed” there. Perhaps the words “sped”, “wheeled” or “rolled” could have been substituted on occasion.

The author also included a few sentences that were awkwardly phrased, including one that ended, “…just one more leaf less.” How about simply saying, “….just one leaf less”?

And, when one of the characters moves into a house that needs a lot of repairs, why did he wait so long to fix a broken window? Seems to me, if you move into a house with a broken pane of window glass, one of the first things you would do would be to either replace the broken glass or at least cover the hole to keep weather, insects and other critters out. But, in this story, the window wasn’t repaired for several weeks.

I need to add that I was given an advanced reader copy of the book so the finished published text might have been edited to improve these shortcomings. 

Overall Rating: Even with its shortcomings, I think this story still deserves a “very good” rating. The author did a good job of giving the reader insights into the Amish community, developing her characters, keeping all the story lines going in a cohesive manner, and providing numerous twists and turns in the plot.

Age Appeal: Teens.

Publisher Info: Revell Books, 2013; ISBN: 9780800719890; Paperback, 304 pages, $14.99.

Buy the Kindle edition $9.68.

Special Info: This is book #3 in the author’s Stoney Ridge Seasons series. Visit the author’s website.

No comments: