Author: Hillary Manton Lodge
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers, 2010
Where I got it: Library!
Jayne is your average city dweller, living in Portland, Oregon and trying to make a name for herself as an investigative reporter. She works hard at what she does, and maybe too much—when her boss asks her to take a vacation instead of covering a coveted story in Cuba, she decides she's going to use the time to chase her own story. She is going to find an Amish family to live with and profile for the paper. But living with an Amish family is not as simple as she expected, and it makes her reexamine the way she is living her own life. Especially when she thinks about her growing friendship with carpenter Levi Burkholder, and she sees the way he interacts with his own family. Will experiencing Plain life change the way Jayne lives hers?
What I loved most about this book is the writing style. Lodge is great with dialogue and internal monologue—Jayne narrates, and she has a crisp wit with just enough sarcasm. I laughed out loud a few times, which always wins points for me. I often found myself thinking that she kind of talks like I do and she is incredibly relatable, for the most part.
I also loved watching Jayne go through her life and sort everything out in her head. She really struggled with repairing relationships within her family, and knowing she could never make things completely right with her recently deceased father. Though this didn't really tear at my heart the way other books that deal with dead loved ones did, Lodge still managed to make me understand where Jayne was coming from and root for her to fix things as best she could.
Jayne isn't the only one dealing with family dynamics. The Amish family she stays with isn't perfect either, even if they appear to be at first glance. With one son all but shunned and a daughter contemplating leaving, they have a lot to deal with and think about. Ultimately, this book is about family, loyalty and discovering yourself and your beliefs. (This is what I could call a Christian fiction book, by the way.)
**Mild spoilers ahead!**
My problems with the book started toward the last quarter of the book. Things seemed to be resolved, and then Levi and Jayne ran into an issue. This happens in life, yes, but the way it was handled kind of made me a little angry. It's clear Levi and Jayne both made mistakes, but they were the result of the way they were treated by their own families. Levi is sensitive to loved ones whose feelings change about him when he changes his life course, and Jayne is very guarded. Yet it looked to me like Levi felt he was completely in the right, and Jayne was forced to admit she was wrong. It didn't seem fair or okay to me.
Plain Jayne is a light, wholesome romance that was just what I needed. It was a little fluffy, with some more serious themes like faith, family and unconditional love. It tended to drag toward the middle—I felt like it could have probably ended sooner than it did—and I didn't like the story quite so much once she left the Amish community, but despite this I enjoyed it enough to want to read its sequel, Simply Sara.