Beverly Lewis didn’t set out to be a bestselling Amish fiction author when she released her first book in the late 1990s about the community of Lancaster, Pa.
That book, The Shunning, tells the story of a young Amish woman named Katie who uncovers a secret about her family’s past. It became a bestseller and was followed by two more books in the series, The Confession and The Reckoning. It was dubbed the “The Heritage of Lancaster County” series.
A movie based on the book series, The Confession Musical, will premiere on UPtv on April 2. It stars John Schneider and Chonda Pierce.
“Boy, did it turn out great,” Lewis said of the musical.
Lewis has written over 100 adult and children’s books during her career, which began in the early 1990s with the publication of Holly's First Love, the first in a 14-book series for pre-teen girls. She followed that with a 24-book series for children, The Cul-de-Sac Kids.
She is best known for her Amish-themed fiction.
Lewis believes that 21st-century modern society could learn a lot from the Amish. Many Americans, she said, are amazed that there are “people living in the 21st century who are still adhering to how they functioned 300 years ago.”
“I think that's, in a way, kind of curious and educational, but it's also inspiring because so much of our society is not boundary ridden – it's kind of just do whatever feels good,” Lewis told Christian Headlines.
The Amish community is focused on faith, family and tradition, Lewis said.
“And so The Shunning and The Confession, those two books were actually good fodder, I think, for making a musical to show the boundaries but [also] the forgiveness and the redemption offered by the Lord. And also to inspire people [in modern society] who feel like their family is fragmented, and their kids are sitting around the table with their phones,” Lewis said. “[The Amish] are families who sit down three squares a day, at the table, they look at each other, and they talk to each other. And they know the art of communication.
“They also embrace wholly the aspect of community in every way,” Lewis added. “They don't put their elderly people in nursing homes. [Instead,] they build another little doddy house onto the main house, and they take care of them. … You have very much of a caretaker community who looks after their people, and they care about them.”
All children in the Amish community – even those as young as three and four – help with chores, Lewis said. The Amish sew their own clothes and grow their food, she said.
“They cling to the way things were. And what has worked for them continues to work well. … And so you have this amazing continuity,” she said. “... They pray for the sick, they pray for each other. They're encouraging. I mean, it sounds like I’m putting them on a pedestal. But in so many ways, we can learn from them. They take the Scriptures straight up.”
Lewis said she receives letters from readers testifying how her novels made them better family members or friends.
The books and UPtv movie are loosely based on the story of Lewis’ maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter. As a young woman, Buchwalter “was excommunicated, first, and then shunned later by her whole church community,” Lewis said.
“She followed her heart and the Lord right out of her community. Because she fell in love with a ministerial student,” Lewis said. The grandmother was Old Order Mennonite. The ministerial student was not.
“She felt that God was calling her to be a pastor's wife,” Lewis said.
Photo courtesy: ©UPtv, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.