Almost Amish – book review

— by Andy Wade –

“The world is based on the false promise of infinite growth. Amish society is based on the sustainable truth of an infinite God. The path from a crazy-busy life to a saner and simpler life begins in knowing the difference”
(p. 95) Nancy Sleeth

Almost Amish coverI can relate to those words! Not that I’m Amish, or even “almost Amish”, but I’ve noticed that, as the tempo of life is tweaked up a notch or two, the willingness and ability to make wise choices diminishes. The book itself is a quick read, and that’s something coming from one who doesn’t read all that fast. As author Nancy Sleeth unfolds the story of how her family got to the place they are, which frequently gets them mistaken for Amish (I suspect only by those who are not too familiar with the Amish), there are many gems of simple wisdom to uncover.

Sleeth sets up an over-simplified Amish framework to tell of her family’s journey into simplicity. If you’re looking for a deep exploration of Amish life, this is not the book for you. But it probably is a book for you if you’re beginning to explore what it might look like to simplify your lifestyle.

Using this Amish-like framework, Sleeth explores key areas of our lives: homes, technology, finance, nature/environment, simplicity, service, security, community, family, and faith. I appreciated little nuggets like the one related to Christmas presents: “One for fun, one for learning, and one to bring them closer to God.” That sounds pretty well-rounded. She’s also open about her own questions and the changes brought about by her questioning:

“For a long time, I resisted shopping locally, Can one person really make a difference? It’s easier to get everything in one store. I don’t have time. It costs too much – I could use that money to support a starving child in Africa. I had all the excuses, but the truth is that’s all they were – excuses for not doing what my conscience or the Holy Spirit or my Jewish guilt told me was right. The reality was that with minimal sacrifice, I could afford to shop ethically and support a starving child in Africa.” (p.101)

What I appreciate about this book is that it explores the journey into simplicity from a typical middle-upper middle class perspective. We need more books that examine life and faith from various life-situations. Some of the “choices” Sleeth mentions are choices that were available to her family because of the profession and income they started from. That is not to criticize, but rather to recognize that where we are in life often does limit the choices we have.

If you’re looking for an easy book to read that delves into various aspects of living more simply, this might be just the book for you. If you’re looking for an in-depth exploration of the topic, looking for a deep comparison of Amish life to other forms of faith-based simplicity, or get up-tight from people sharing openly about their experiences, then I’d advise skipping this book. Personally, I enjoyed the read and, although her perspective is a bit different from mine, I found some good ideas and wise words.