Jan Drexler: Hannah's Choice
Hannah Yoder longs for adventure and the life God called her to, but she also loves her life at home with her family. How will she choose between her heart and her head, especially when two eligible bachelors appeal to both? Jan Drexler crafts an Amish tale that will captivate readers this winter with Hannah’s Choice (Revell).
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the plot in Hannah’s Choice?
Several ideas and experiences came together to become the plot for Hannah’s Choice. One of them was my ancestors’ experiences of emigrating from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and then on to Indiana in the mid-1800’s, and my own family’s experience of moving around the Midwest too many times. But there is more to the plot than one family moving from their home.
Years ago, our family lived next to a cemetery in Kentucky that pre-dated the Civil War. One monument bore the names of seven children who had all died within a few days of each other. I couldn’t imagine living through such a tragic event. How would something like that affect the mother? The father? The siblings? Hannah’s family suffered a similar loss, and this story explores how one family might have survived the tragedy.
What’s unique about this setting?
Many Amish novels have been set in Lancaster County, but I think the time of the setting, 1842, gives this story a unique view of the Amish. After all, when everyone drives horses and wagons and no one has electricity, what is it that sets the Amish apart from their neighbors? I think readers will find that even small differences, like those that distinguish Mennonites from Amish, are important.
Is this the first book in your Journey to Pleasant Prairie series? And are there more novels planned?
Yes, this is the first book in the series. The second book, Mattie’s Pledge, is due to come out in September 2016. It follows the Yoder family’s journey west to Indiana. The third book, tentatively titled Naomi’s Hope, lets the reader follow the family’s story as they make their homes in the new Amish settlement in LaGrange County, Indiana.
You have deep connections with the Amish community. Can you tell us about this?
When I was a young girl, my grandmother told me that we were related to the Amish, and I’ve been fascinated with the Plain people ever since. The advent of the internet and Ancestry.com have made my genealogical wanderings easier, and I’ve been able to trace my family line to some of the first Amish settlers in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Even though my Amish roots extend back to the 1600s in Switzerland, my ancestors followed the liberal side of the division in the Amish church in the late 1800s. I was raised in the Church of the Brethren, a modern offshoot of the Old German Baptist Brethren church, and the Anabaptist sensibilities and theology have always been part of my life.
However, even with all of the family stories that I’ve discovered through my genealogy, the best way to learn to know Amish habits and customs is to live among them. We were privileged to live in Goshen, Indiana for seven years (in all of our moving around!), and I learned much just by chatting with Amish mothers in the dentist’s waiting room and in line at the grocery store. I still miss hearing the clip-clop of a buggy going down the street in front of our house on a summer afternoon!
What’s on the horizon for you?
More stories, I hope! I have an idea for another trilogy taking shape in the back of my head, and I’m anxious to start developing that story.
This interview originally appeared in FamilyFiction January 2016. Click HERE to read the full issue!