Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review: Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge

About the book:

Talented new author Hillary Manton Lodge brings a new twist to the popular Amish novel.

Jayne Tate loves her life as it is—living in a big city, working as a reporter for a fast-paced newspaper, and dating a guy who knows nothing about her past. When her father passes away though, she’s forced to take another look at what she wants out of life. After losing out on the big career opportunity she was hoping for, she decides to escape to Oregon Amish country, seeking solace and maybe a big story.

Even in this land of buggies and bonnets, Jayne finds life more complicated than she expected. Can she persuade herself that her growing friendship with the mysterious and handsome Levi Burkholder is just about research? And what’s a latte-drinking, laptop-using, motorcycle-riding reporter to do when this new life starts to change her?

With humor, faith, and unexpected romance, Plain Jayne will delight readers.

My thoughts:

Plain Jayne took me on a journey to "Amishland" that I imagine most fans of Amish fiction wish they could take in real life. I know that I am most definitely one of those fans. I have always wondered what it would be like to actually spend some time living within the Amish community, and whether or not I could hack it with all the manual labor day after day. The cooking and sewing I know I would love...milking the cows and scrubbing the kitchen floor is another thing altogether.

I loved that this novel showed things from an Englisher's point of view. I had no trouble at all relating to Jayne because we are very have very similar, somewhat frazzled, personalities. She got the opportunity to see things from the outside looking in, and got to learn a lot about herself in the process.

The supporting characters in the book were great, too. Each one had their own unique qualities that made for such a great story. I loved how Martha opened her home after Jayne was practically dropped on her doorstep with little to no warning. I loved how Sara had such talent with a needle and thread that she willingly wanted to make a dress for Jayne so she would not feel out of place in an Amish household. I also loved Miss Lynnie and her directness even at 90-something years old (I'm also hoping she'll pop up somewhere in the author's next book).

Even with all the good stuff, there was one small thing that kept annoying me throughout the book. Some portions of conversation were just too clipped, for lack of a better word. I felt like I was reading an interview transcript--just lines on the page with no clue as to what the character is experiencing emotionally, what the look on their face means, if they're speaking sarcastically, etc. Some portions were so long that I had to go back to the beginning of the conversation to figure out who was talking when. This occurred maybe a handful of times throughout the whole story, but it bothered me nonetheless.

Ms. Lodge has definitely tapped into a new area in Amish fiction that younger fans are sure to enjoy. Not only has she created a new twist on an Amish tale, she's also set her stories in a different area of the country--the Pacific Northwest--instead of the traditional settings of Pennsylvania and Ohio. I have no idea what she's got planned for future novels, but I would love to read more about Gemma, for sure. I am certainly looking forward to reading more about Sara in Ms. Lodge's next book, Simply Sara, that's due to release in 2011.

4 Stars

**This book was provided to me free for review through Glass Road PR.

Click here to purchase your own copy of Plain Jayne.

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