‘First Impressions’ a well-rounded success

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They say first impressions are lasting impressions, but should you trust them? That’s what Lizzie Blank must decide when she meets Frederick Detweiler in “First Impressions” by Sarah Price. It is the first of Price’s Amish Classics series.

Jane and Lizzie Blank are the oldest of five girls in an Amish dairy family in Leola, Pennsylvania. As close as sisters can be, they are very different. Blond Jane is shy and always looks on the good side of things. Dark-haired Lizzie is feisty and quicker to judge. That gets her into trouble when visitors come to Leola from the Ohio Amish community, which has different ways than the Pennsylvania Dutch.

While Charles Beachey makes a good impression with his kindness and manners – especially with gentle Jane – Lizzie is less impressed with his friend Frederick Detweiler. In fact, she thinks he’s haughty and prideful, something of which the Amish do not approve. A natural disaster has all the Amish pitching in to clean up and gives the Blank sisters an opportunity to get to know Charles and Frederick better, but it does nothing to improve Lizzie’s low opinion of Frederick. It also lets Lizzie meet Charles’ cousin George Wickey and he draws Lizzie’s attention with his cheerfulness and friendliness. Then George tells the Blank sisters something about Frederick that confirms Lizzie’s suspicions of the serious, aloof man.

A Beachey family crisis reveals things about all three men that make the Blank sisters question whether they knew any of them at all.

It seems to be a trend these days to re-write Jane Austen’s classic novels in one way or another. I’ve read a few and not all re-tellings are created equal. I have to say, taking “Pride and Prejudice” and giving it an Amish flavor works quite well, especially in Price’s hands.

I have to admit, I’ve read Amish-set stories in the past and did not care for the way they were written – so much so that if I saw a woman wearing a prayer kapp on the book cover, I wouldn’t read it. I took a chance on Price’s series and I’m glad I did.

Anyone who knows Austen’s story will find no surprises here – all the characters are recognizable from the original. It’s Price’s prose and new setting in Amish country that allow this story to shine. 

Setting the tale in Pennsylvania Dutch country gives much the same feel as the English countryside of 200 years ago. There are the horses and buggies, of course, and the tight rules of the Amish are similar to the restricted English way of life in Austen’s time. So it’s a similar parallel in that respect. Price knows the nuances of the Amish way of life and uses them to introduce faith and God into the story and give depth and color to the narrative. It’s as if these stories were always meant to be told through an Amish lens and that’s a credit to Price’s storytelling abilities.

Price may have taken the blueprint from Austen, but she made the story her own with humor, insight and a deep knowledge of Amish life and the core values they hold dear: family, work and faith in God. Lizzie battles with herself when she tries to justify her unchristian attitude toward Frederick with her professed faith in God. I prefer Price’s version of Lizzie’s father to Austen’s original: he has some Solomon-like wisdom in managing a problem between Lizzie and her mother. 

Keep your eyes open while reading because you’ll run across other characters you’ll be meeting again in the sequels. Price has adapted all six of Austen’s novels into an Amish setting. 

If you want a well-rounded novel with strong details and a touch of classic story-telling, read “First Impressions” by Sarah Price. For more information on Price or her other novels and series – Amish and non-Amish – visit sarahpriceauthor.com online.

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