Fancy or Plain? Which Would You Choose?

Happy New Year, friends and followers! Welcome back! Here’s to the first post of 2015. (#370 since I started this blogging gig!) May the new year be peaceful, blessed and prosperous for us all. (FYI, I’m keeping my ‘Christmas décor’ up here a little longer, just like I’m doing at home.)

Not sure where I wanted to start this year, but I did just finish a little gem of a book during the Christmas break from school. This sweet, switched-at-birth story by author Cynthia Keller touched me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with all of you. (Disclaimer: I borrowed the book from my church’s library. In no way was I compensated for this write up.)


The title, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, was a bit of a misnomer. The story doesn’t revolve around Christmas at all, which makes it a perfect weekend read at any time of the year.

The title does, however, suggest the backgrounds and backstories of its lead characters, 30-year-olds Ellie Lawrence and Rachel King Yoder. (I’m always good for stories involving an Amish backdrop.)

Ellie holds an executive position in a high-profile, New York City public relations corporate firm. Despite underlying dissatisfaction with her job and and her sort-of romantic relationship with Jason, she has slipped into a content-enough routine with the family she believes to be hers and the overall trappings of her life. (If I had to choose a protagonist, I’m thinking she’s Ellie.)

Rachel was raised Amish. Widowed three years ago and unable to manage the farm she and her husband owned, she and her 10-year-old daughter are back in her parents’ home. Although she often finds herself feeling at odds with her mother, this is the only life Rachel has ever known.

Respect, and the rules and ways that go along with having chosen to be baptized into the Amish faith and culture, keep Rachel from delving too deeply into her emotions. She has always felt dissatisfaction too, especially after having lived among “the English” during rumspringa, the period of exploration and/or rebellion Amish teens are allowed. Rachel returned to her faith, mostly because she’d fallen in love with Jacob Yoder, and couldn’t imagine her life without him.  

Long story short, Ellie and Rachel each receive a letter explaining the circumstances that led to the switch. Rachel buries hers in a drawer, but Ellie sets into play a series of events that will impact both these ladies’ futures. (Of course, y’all knew that, or there would be no story and nothing for me to write about! 😉 )

This story is nicely written, told from the points-of-view of its leading ladies, with one exception: a chapter told from the perspective of the nurse who was involved in the switch. I was readily transported to Rachel’s Amish farm in Pennsylvania and related easily to the go-go-go associated with life in NYC. My only beef is how the author provides backstory, in several-page-long flashbacks (?) of exposition. Mrs. Keller did this more often at the beginning, which made getting into the story a bit of a challenge–for me, anyway. Liking the premise, the Amish part of the setting–and the characters early on—kept me reading.)

I  to easily to Ellie’s intrigue with a simpler way of life; it reminded me how much I love spending time at my cottage. I could easily adopt—and adapt to—the choices she made as the story and her character’s journey developed. What Rachel learned about herself describes me too, but I don’t want to give anything away.

Finally, the story explored the themes of family, nature, nurture and what might have been had the switch not occurred. I kept wondering what kind of a resolution could possibly be reached–particularly for Rachel–as the tale approached its close.

I now turn the blog-mike over to you! Any books you’ve recently read you’d like to share about? How did you spend New Year’s Eve? (We wound up at a neighbor’s big family get together—unexpected and just a few houses down the street, so no driving necessary on a night I much prefer to NOT be in a motorized vehicle.)

I’m not big on resolutions but have a few (besides the standard lose-ten-pounds): to read books on a regular basis (and simultaneously redevelop my attention span); to launch a speaker business based on several workshops I’ve developed these past few years. Once the latter is in play, I hope to get back into writing fiction, which has really gone the wayside because of other projects. Do you have any resolutions? Would you rather live a plain (Amish) or a fancy (English) life? Could you find a balance between the two?

Have a wonderful day and week,



28 thoughts on “Fancy or Plain? Which Would You Choose?

  1. No resolutions. Stopped that long ago as I never made good on them. Plan to read and write more than last year, and push away from the blogging keyboard. Already I’ve botched the latter. 😦

    Nice review, Joanna. I managed to read during the holidays but it’s never enough. Now I have reviews to write. Better get to them. 🙂 🙂


    1. Please don’t back away from the blog, Tess! I’ll miss you so!

      Thanks for the kind words. You reminded me I should be posting these same thoughts on books at the sales sites. Have fun writing yours!


        1. You and someone else recently commented about reviews. I take the opportunity to ‘gush’ (?) about those books that resonate with me in some way. (Among the reasons I don’t do so too often, and by request. If I don’t love it, it’s a bit of an undertaking trying to say something positive w/o sounding overly critical. That’s what beta readers and critique partners are for–yes?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I agree. If I don’t like a book, my lips are sealed and I’ve never walked this earth. This is the only way I can live with myself. I do not wish to say anything if it’s not positive. I can become too busy, right?


            1. Guess I do too, lol. I always go back to Thumper, the rabbit from Walt Disney’s Bambi: “If ya can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”


            2. I try. And really trying right now. Just finished a book set against an Amish backdrop that so smacked of “Englisher” writing it. POVs and voice kind of difficult to distinguish and story elements too formula even for me, lol.

              There. I vented and didn’t hurt anyone’s work by doing so! 😉


  2. Good review! You piqued my curiosity and I’m NOT an Amish reader. I might have to break that habit with this book.

    New Year’s Eve, we hosted a party for the college Bible study group we lead. All the regulars came and we picked up several who were in town. Had a great time playing games, and we rang in the new year with prayer followed by a Silly String battle. Too much fun.

    I don’t have a resolution, per se, but I pray about a focus for every year. Like a word for the year – my topic for my blog article on Thursday. And I use the fresh start to reorganize and prioritize projects. Hoping to stick better to my schedule this year.

    As for books, I read a ton last year and posted my favorites on my blog last week. The best that I read recently was BURIED by Elizabeth Goddard. Just came out on January 1st, and I reviewed it at the Suspense Sisters Review page. Such a riveting story! I can always count on Beth to keep me up until my eyes won’t focus on the page!


    1. Hi Marji! So nice to see you here. Thanks for your comment and very kind words. Just started GRACE, another Amish-based story, this one by Shelley Shepard Gray. I’m like a junkie, lol. It was on the table at church so I grabbed it.

      I like the idea of praying for focus. I did the prioritizing, organizing and goal-setting last January too. It did help. I’m not where I want to be yet, but laid much of the groundwork along the way.

      I’ll have to check out your thoughts on BURIED. Sure hope it wasn’t too cold during your Silly String fight on New Year’s Eve. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently read ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ for a book club. I can’t say much about it because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for others, but suffice it to say there is a great twist in it. It also has a lot of social relevance, so it will be a great one to discuss at book club next week.

    No resolutions for me though I’ve set up some loose goals for my third book (time frames, etc.) We’ll see if I meet them…


    1. Something tells me you’re organized enough to follow through on whatever you choose to do. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress! Thnx!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year to you! Sometimes I think the word “resolution” puts a lot of pressure on us. It implies we need to have a whole new way of life by Jan 31 and we all know that’s too much work. I like to think of them as new opportunities. I have a new opportunity to lose weight, write more, balance my time better, eat less chocolate. Opportunities scare me less than resolutions. As for the Amish life, not for me. I like my hair straightener too much. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pulling your hair tight into a bun under a “kapp”–while it’s wet, of course–creates a straightening effect once it’s dry and you take it down, lol.

      Yes. Opportunities. I like that! Happy New Year to you!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. So, we make the kapp a little bigger, lol. I used to pull mine back wet in a ‘banana comb/clip’.(Remember those? I still miss them. They don’t make them big enough anymore.) at the end of the day I would take it out. Hair would be smooth, except for curly ends. Easiest hairstyling ever!


  5. wow…. love the review. My biggest goal for this year is to finish my book, post 50 motivational videos online and grow my commodity business three fold. I would prefer a balance between fancy and plain. I think a balance life is a happy life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Do you have a separate website where you’ll be posting your videos? Or sharing links to them on your blog? Do you have any made yet?


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