Amelia Devries, the main character in Beverly Lewis’s latest book The Fiddler, finds herself stuck in the country in a rainstorm after losing her way from performing the opening act in a Tim McGraw concert. The fact that she’s really a classical violinist and is hiding her fiddling junkets from her parents and boyfriend helps us see that Amelia’s musically successful life isn’t as satisfying as one would expect.
That stormy night she meets Michael Hostetler, a young Amish man who faces similar challenges in that others have his future all planned and mapped out. The friendship, that begins when she accepts his offer of shelter during the storm, blossoms after he invites her to experience his Amish community of Hickory Hollow for the weekend. She soon sees, however, that under the idyllic surface of Amish life are relationships and problems as complex as those she faces.
One of the book’s most interesting features for me was seeing the Amish ways and lifestyle through Amelia’s eyes, while being aware, through Michael’s, of how her Englishness offends the members of the Amish community. It is an enlightening juxtaposition.
I also enjoyed the way Lewis portrays Amelia the musician. Lewis speaks, in the Author’s Note, of being a musician herself. That familiarity with music and how it feels to play the violin comes across in lyrical passages:
“Amelia got out on the driver’s side and removed the violin from its case in the backseat. Then she leaned against the car, playing a descant … enjoying herself as the moon appeared over the horizon. All around her, the sweet sounds of the night joined in with the strains of the fiddle.
“She lost herself in the music as the Amish young people sang through the verses. Playing louder now, Amelia closed her eyes as she moved back and forth, playing a harmony to each verse the teenagers sang in the barn.” – p. 221
Other things I liked about The Fiddler were the way the two main characters work through issues of discovering their personal destinies within a cast of characters who are full of strong opinions, and the role that faith in God plays in coming to those decisions. The adherence to rules that most of the Amish characters exhibit contrasts with the freer lifestyle of the Amish Wise Woman. She leaves the characters and the reader with lots to think about.
Having read several books by Lewis in the past, I found the basic explanations of Amish ways in this story– together with her rendition of Amish speech patterns (“’Ach no’ … ‘But maybe you know that already, ain’t?’ …. ‘I doubt she’s back for gut.’” pp. 153, 182)–familiar to tiresome. But those things certainly do make the book accessible to someone who has not encountered the Amish before.
The Fiddler is quintessential Beverly Lewis. Her fans as well as lovers of the Amish genre will find this gentle romance a pleasant reading interlude.