Best-selling author Beverly Lewis has garnered quite a readership for her memorable stories set in Amish farmland.
There’s a reason her fiction resonates so deeply: Born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, a keen interest in her mother’s Plain heritage inspired the author to write many Amish-related novels. Her own family heritage is Old Order Mennonite, but she has many dear friends among Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.
“I grew up near Amish farmland and still have many Plain relatives and friends there. I’ve stayed with two Amish families during two separate summers and visit Lancaster County quite often. I keep in touch by writing many letters—even some emails, believe it or not.”
This fall, the former schoolteacher launches a brand-new series with The Thorn (Bethany House), the first novel in The Rose Trilogy. Taking place in the mid-1980s, it’s a moving family saga set in southern Lancaster County among some of Pennsylvania’s oldest order of Amish.
When the book opens, Rose Kauffman has just regained her freedom after caring for her invalid mother for several months almost singlehandedly. She’s eager to return to the outdoors, and especially to her barn chores with favorite neighbor, Nick Franco, the bishop’s foster son. When her married sister, Hannah, shows up for several visits, Rose worries something is terribly amiss with her now-English sister. The two girls had always been close, but when Hen married a worldly man, Rose just assumed she was lost to the Amish ways and the faith of their childhood.
“My inspiration for the series came from the Amish who take in English foster children or eventually adopt them,” remarks Lewis. Another inspiration was the Fresh Air Program, “where children from NYC come to Lancaster County to spend part of the summer. These youngsters dress Plain and work alongside their “siblings” but are considered outsiders until they join the church.”
Lewis’ tales set among the Amish heartland have resonated with readers as well as critics—she’s been featured in Time magazine, and her books are a consistent presence on the bestseller lists. Her novel The Shunning sold more than one million copies, and The Brethren won the 2007 Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction. In fact, there are some 12 million copies of her works in print.
After publishing more than 80 books for adults and children, you’d think it would be hard to keep coming up with new story ideas. But not for Beverly Lewis: “New storylines are triggered in my mind when I read the Lancaster New Era, as well as The Budget, or when listening to the unique—and sometimes humorous—tales told to me by Amish friends, as well as my readers,” she says. “Most of all, my ideas come from having a creative imagination and an understanding that Amish people are human, too. Even though they live in a cloistered community, their struggles are similar to our own, and readers can relate easily to them.”