Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Called to Be Amish

Called to Be Amish
By Marlene C. Miller
Herald Press, 2015


Fewer than one hundred outsiders have joined the Old–Order Amish—and stayed—since 1950. Marlene C. Miller is one of them.

In this rare memoir, Marlene recounts her unhappy and abusive childhood, how she throws herself into cheerleading and marching band, and how she falls in love with Johnny, the gentle young Amish man who helps her lace her ice skates.

Against the wishes of both sets of parents, Marlene and Johnny get married and begin a family. Follow the author on this unusual journey to find out how God's love called her out of bitterness and depression and into the warm embrace of her new Amish community.

Accompany her as she dons an Amish dress and prayer covering and gets baptized. Learn how she endures the strain of ten children, a hundred-acre farm, and accidents and tragedy, and find out how she comes close to walking away from it all. Turning Amish has proven to be anything but plain and simple for this former majorette. But nearly fifty years later, Marlene is still living out God’s call as an Old Order Amish woman.

My thoughts

Called to Be Amish . . . As someone who has long enjoyed Amish fiction, realizing at the same time how difficult it is for an English person join this lifestyle and faith, I am very glad to have read Marlene C. Miller's memoir. There's no shocking revelations, just a totally open and sincere account of her life's journey and day-to-day experience in an Old Order community which I found very interesting.

While Marlene's writing style might not be highly polished, it flows across the page in a conversational style, almost like she's chatting with her readers over a cup of coffee, and she writes with the authenticity of someone who has actually lived the Amish life and seen God's hand throughout - even in the dysfunctional family and abusive situation in which she grew up.

I have a deep respect for Marlene, God's calling that she felt on her life, and the depth of her faith through both good and bad times. Johnny was likeable from the beginning and I felt for his struggle between loving Marlene, yet not wanting to leave his Amish faith behind. It was fun to visualize each new experience with Marlene . . . long worship services on hard, backless benches, straight pins instead of zippers on her dresses, learning the German language. And I couldn't help but smile as Marlene described her preparation to host church for the first time:  "Spring cleaning was one thing, but getting ready for church entailed a whole lot more."

One thing that I have always admired about the Amish is their work ethic, and this book has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for that. Farm chores, gardening, canning, cooking, laundry and cleaning for ten children just boggles the imagination! And then things that would surely be overwhelming for most of us on top of all that . . . financial hardships, children's injuries, Johnny working several jobs, and daily exhaustion. I did appreciate Marlene's honesty in sharing how close she once came close to leaving, for the "other Amish wives seemed to embody an ideal of industry and kindness I could never live up to." Johnny and Marlene must not have had a lot of time for each other, yet they pulled together and their love remained strong.

There is much that I admire about the Amish, but like most things in life, we can't fully understand all that's involved until we experience it personally - and that's what Marlene brings to us in her memoir. I recommend Called to Be Amish to anyone who enjoys reading about the Amish lifestyle.


Marlene C. Miller joined the Amish as an adult and has been a member of the Old Order Amish for almost 50 years. She and her husband of 48 years live on a farm in Ohio surrounded by their nine children, more than 40 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reviewing this book. It looks like a good read. I love getting an insider's view on things.