So there were these identical twin sisters. Each of them was dating a man. One night, in bed, late, with the covers drawn close, they made a decision. They switched men. And then married them.
This is the kind of story you expect on a clearly-scripted reality show or a soap opera where people die and come back to life several times. This is not what you’d expect of a true tale from an Amish community. This is why I love it.
The twin sisters were ancestors of Shawn Smucker, and he tells their story in his new book My Amish Roots. The book details the lives of Shawn’s family starting in 17th century Germany (There, a Lutheran man converted for the love of a good Anabaptist woman.) and travels with them across the Atlantic to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where Shawn now lives with his wife and children. It’s the tale of a family – a quintessentially American family, an Amish/Mennonite family, a family of struggles and close kinship, a faithful family, a real family.
Shawn has a way with words that makes stories glimmer. It would be easy for a family history book to be tedious or relevant only to the people in that family, but Shawn’s writing – his ability to turn a story into a universal experience – gives this book a depth and power that only the best writing has. By the time you’re done reading, you feel like you not only know the Stoltfuses and a story of Amish life and death in Lancaster County, but you also know Shawn, someone as deeply committed to their craft and their work. As his friend, I can tell you that’s a great honor. As a writer, I can tell you it’s an esteemed privilege to know
So if you are interested in memoir or genealogy, in studying how to put together an epic story or share the fragments of family life, if you love history, have a fascination with the Amish, have lost someone you loved, have struggled with who you are – this is a book you need to read.
Plus, you’ll get to see what happened to those conniving twin sisters.
Shawn lives in Paradise, Pennsylvania with his wife, four children, four chickens, and a rabbit named Rosie. His most recent book, My Amish Roots, explores the roles of family, death, life, tradition, and legacy against the backdrop of his Amish ancestry. He blogs daily at shawnsmucker.com about writing, the strange things his children say, and postmodern Christianity You can also “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.