Never Heard of the Amish?

So easy a child can do it, I assured myself, as I set about designing and ordering business cards online with the front cover of my book Leaving Lancaster on one side and my contact info on the other. I uploaded the book cover, no problem, but found applying the text to the other side a formatting nightmare.

I grumbled to myself as I punched the number to customer service, then was helped over the course of the day by three patient, kind-hearted people who told me they were in Jamaica; I’m one of those nosy people who asks. Each agent, two women and one man, commented on the beautiful book cover and asked what the story was about.

“It’s an Amish novel,” I said, and was surprised they’d never heard of the Amish.

“How about Mennonites?” I asked, and heard a unanimous No.

“The Protestant Reformation?” I asked. Again, I received polite negative responses.

I did a quick historical fast-forward in my head, from Martin Luther’s split from the Catholic Church, to Jakob Ammann, the Swiss Anabaptist who later became the leader of the Amish. Enough intriguing information to keep me talking for hours, but no time to explain.

I pushed the fascinating history aside – for now. “My novel takes place in contemporary Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, home of the old order Amish, a devoutly religious group. They’re known for their humility and willingness to forgive. Out of choice, they don’t use electricity or telephones in the home, and work the fields with draft horses and mules, and drive only horse-drawn buggies as their forefathers did.”

I hoped the three on the phone could see some aspects of the Amish culture from the book cover. I wanted to elaborate on the unique and delectable foods – chow chow, whoopie pie – but knew it was time to let them get back to their jobs, although none seemed in a hurry.

“In an attempt to keep the modern world from intruding into their home life, old order Amish restrict access to radio, television, and telephones,” I said. “And no Internet use.”

“Really?” one asked, incredulity straining her voice. “How do they survive?”

“Quite well.” I visualized massive barns, in my mind inhaled the rich, sweet farm aromas, and listened to clip-clopping hooves on pavement. “Their population is actually growing.”

Excitement expanded my voice as I envisioned bearded men donning straw hats and women wearing prayer caps, and considered their exceptional work ethic and devotion to God and family. “Since 1960, the Amish population in Lancaster County has almost tripled. I’ve heard there are over 200,000 Amish in North America, mostly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.”

At the end of the conversation, my mind was whirling with anticipation about my next visit to Lancaster County. And wondering if my cards would arrive on time.