Ellie, by Mary Christner Borntrager

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Publication date – April 1988

Summary: A fascinating look at the world of the Amish, as seen through the eyes of a young Amish girl growing to adulthood. Through Ellie’s experiences, including a runaway buggy and a death in the family, readers get a real-life picture of the Amish lifestyle. The first book in the “Ellie’s People” series.

Thoughts: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book, but my fascination with the Amish means I occasionally read such books over again, just for fun.

This isn’t a very challenging book even by YA standards, but I have to commend it for giving a curious people an insider’s view on what it is to be Amish. Not many books bother with that, instead looking upon the Amish from the view of an outsider only.

That being said, though, the book does have a few problems. Aside from various typos that slipped into the final publication (“forbidden fruity”), the story doesn’t have much in the way of pacing. The main character, Ellie, goes from being six to sixteen to somewhere in her twenties, and half the time there’s absolutely no indication that she’s changed in age until a character mentions it in thought. This means that sometimes I’m not sure whether Ellie is a child or going through puberty sometimes, and believe me the style of writing doesn’t make it easy to tell just from character viewpoint alone.

Though I must say, it is better handled overall than some of the later books in the series. The first book of the author’s that I read was Sarah, and while it too suffered from problems of pacing and timeline, it also suffered from an overabundance of pointless Pennsylvania Deutsch words. Ellie has a smattering of them and they’re explained decently, but in Sarah, the author seems compelled to remind us about every ten pages or so that maut means “hired girl.” Really, Mrs. Borntrager, we all had it figured out after the first few chapters.

The non-Amish are not protrayed in a very good light, either. We see Ellie’s childhood friend Missy all grown up near the end of the book, the person Ellie used to admire very much for her conveniences and pretty clothes and all that. Missy has two children of her own whom she treats rather shabbily, the kids themselves seem like brats, Missy smokes, and her husband is absent because he’s in the army. Missy becomes the epitome of everything that isn’t Amish, and it’s clear from the portrayal which person, and thus lifestyle, the reader is supposed to think of as the better one.

Still, in spite of its problems, this book was an interesting read, seeing a young and willful Amish girl grow up and fall in love and get married, finally content in her lifestyle despite the temptations of the outside world. Combined with Sarah (the only two books in the series I’ve read, though I’d love to read the others if I can ever find them), I think this series reveals more about the life and worldviews of the author than anything else, and that can be as fascinating as the book itself.

One comment on “Ellie, by Mary Christner Borntrager

  1. Pingback: The Reviewer’s Dilemma: Looking Back and Wincing | Bibliotropic

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