Working as I do with the Amish, it’s interesting for me to get a look at what Amish life is like when we English aren’t around. Bearing in mind that this is a different state (and the Amish can differ quite a bit from one church district to another, let alone another state), and a different era, it is still clear that the Amish are just people, dealing with many of the same issues we all do, but in a completely different framework.
Saloma left the Amish church, which means leaving the Amish community, in her early 20s. Now, her father is dying, and she must deal anew with the issues within her family, and the memories that are stirred up.
Saloma’s father was mentally ill & of very limited intelligence as well as violent & abusive. Her mother was a martyr. Her brother was also violent and abusive, as well as a molester. Saloma and her sisters were constantly blamed for her father’s outbursts and her brother’s abuse. If only they were more pliant, more obedient, less rebellious, then they wouldn’t be suffering. Of course, this is complete and utter bullshit, but it’s a great way to really mess up their minds. And Saloma, in particular, wasn’t made quiet & pliant. She is intelligent, curious and inquisitive. These traits are not encouraged in the family, or in the community. As Saloma grows up, she can not reconcile herself with the constraints and contradictions, and after her mother refuses help from a social worker not once but twice, she makes plans to leave.
Saloma’s style is clear and frank and honest. This main story of the book, her childhood, is framed within the context of her father’s death, and this sometimes feels contrived. It does, however, reassure you that Saloma came out OK from the horrific childhood she had. There is plenty of information for anyone who is just curious about the Amish. But it is mostly the story of an abused girl and how she survived. For the story of how she came to thrive, you have to get the next book…