August 29, 2004

Blood of the Prodigal

I haven't read a novel in quite some time -- maybe years. And I haven't written about a book of any kind for this blog before. However this one related so strongly to my personal life that I feel inspired.

Like a colleague wrote recently, a book can take you places that movies and DVD's and TV shows cannot go.

Blood of the Prodigal involves the Ohio Amish community. No, my family is not anywhere near Amish. But we are strongly Christian. I haven't been to a regular church regularly for many years, but I have my relationship with the spiritual side of the Universe, or God if you prefer. And God has nothing to do with politics or gay marriage. But I digress.

This Paul Gaus novel is a murder mystery, made very interesting and informative by his discriptions of Amish life and the peculiar Amish customs. You get some surface info, but you don't get into the middle of the Amish community or mindset. You are kept at a distance the way the Amish people keep the "English" at two or three arms' lengths.

Jonah Miller is the murder victim, and he is a man who was born Amish but left the fold in his youth. He apparently is killed when he is attempting to come back. This after his son, who is still with the Amish, had been kidnapped. The story is intricate and very intriguing with all its unexpected twists and turns. I'd recommend it if you enjoy the genre.

You can relate the title to the character I mentioned. And I can relate to him. I am a prodigal son. And I have just recently come back to my home state of Kansas after 20+ years. So far at least I've had much better luck than Jonah had.

During the story we never hear from Jonah, and I would've liked to have heard his character speak. We get a pretty good idea of where his head was having spent ten years away from the strictly plain life of the Amish, and then his motivations for wanting to return. I felt for him and feel extremely grateful that my situation is not nearly so extreme.

With the Amish, either you are, or you aren't. There is no halfway, no tolerance if you are unwilling to wear the straw hat and suspenders and grow a beard -- shaved above and below the lips. Nope, they won't even acknowledge that you exist unless you're willing to go all the way into Amishness.

I'm grateful that my family, though I was different and liked to do things they didn't approve of, was willing to except me more on my terms and not completely on theirs.

I have to admit that the Amish lifestyle is vaguely attractive to me. A simple life without credit cards and mortgage payments and traffic; and even without all the pleasures like espresso and movies sounds kind of nice. I would get bored though. I have an active mind that needs more than a simple farmer's life, and more to read than the Bible.

Sometimes I hate trying to sum these things up. I find when I have a problem finishing it's usually because I didn't start very well. I didn't have a clearly defined thesis. This time I tried to write about myself by writing about a book and it didn't really work. I did get some thoughts out but I didn't get all the personal insights I expected.

As free human beings we can use our unique intelligence to try to understand ourselves and our world. But if we are prevented from using our creative potential, we are deprived of one of the basic characteristics of a human being.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Posted by Wayne at August 29, 2004 12:11 AM
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