Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Shunning

This weekend I accomplished a major task: I finished reading a trilogy of Amish romance novels. If you need a refresher on what the deal is with "Bonnet Rippers" please refer to my previous post here. Since I was so disappointed by my first foray into the genre, I decided to go for a classic: The Heritage of Lancaster County trilogy by Beverly Lewis. Lewis is the queen of Amish fiction and her first book in the series, The Shunning, is arguably her most famous.

As I hoped, the series was totally ridiculous. Lewis, like most authors writing in this genre, is not Amish herself and she is not writing for Amish people. These are books by and for Christians who have weird fantasies about "Plain People." You might guess that her descriptions of Amish life were a bit off, but the authors of these books spend lots of time doing research and often live near communities where they have befriended Amish people. As it turned out, the big challenge for Lewis was writing absolutely anything realistic about the modern world.

In the book, the main character finds out that she was adopted and that her birth mother is not Amish. When we first meet her mother, Lewis wants to let us know that the woman is rich. So she describes the woman:
-Being driven around by a chauffeur
-In a limousine
-Wearing white fur
-And a diamond choker

The book was published in 1997 and there is a reference to CDs and one person (a bad guy) has a cell phone. I think it is reasonable to assume that she is setting the series in the present day. As in NOT the 1930s.

In the second book Katie travels to where her mother lives in upstate New York. Turns out, she lives on an "estate" called Mayfield Manor, and is attended by servants including maids, a butler, cooks, and two chauffeurs. Most of the staff is apparently British, and they actually wear uniforms and maid's outfits when they work. There is also a scene where Katie goes to an art opening, which involves getting dressed up in formal attire, sitting down in an auditorium, and having a velvet curtain dramatically pulled back to reveal a painting.

The absolute best part is the huge fuss made over satin fabric. Katie first starts to suspect that something is up with her past when she finds a satin baby dress in her Amish parent's home. She also re-names her horse "Satin Boy" which somehow just sounds gross. When she gets kicked out of her church (Spoiler Alert: There is a shunning in The Shunning) she goes out to an expensive dress shop and asks to try on their fanciest thing. "Satin?" the shop girl asks knowingly. Actually, I prefer to imagine her saying it with panic and horror. "Fancy? Surely you can't mean SATIN?!"

Satin is a weave not a fiber. It is a technique that makes the fabric look shiny, but isn't an expensive process on its own. Silk satin is nice, but you can make some pretty cheap, tacky satin out of polyester.

I think this clears up why "Satin Boy" seemed gross to me.

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