A Brief Review of
Chasing the Amish Dream: My Life as a Young Amish Bachelor
Reviewed by Emma Sleeth.
Chasing the Amish Dream: My Life as a Young Amish Bachelor is a collection of forty short essays originally written for publication in author Loren Beachy’s hometown newspaper, the Goshen News. A quick afternoon read, Chasing the Amish Dream gives a slice-of-life view into Beachy’s Old Order Amish lifestyle, touching on predictable topics such as buggies, auctions, church, and haying and more surprising glimpses into his appreciation for Settlers of Catan, cross-country travel, and pranks on friends and strangers alike.
Beachy himself is a twenty-something, bi-vocational auctioneer and school teacher. He derives great satisfaction from selling at auctions, sometimes going into minute detail about exactly which horse, quilt, or piece of farm equipment sold for precisely how much. One of his most endearing qualities is his confessed habit of falling into an auctioneer’s chant absentmindedly, the way most of us whistle or hum, a practice that once led a stranger on the train to reassure him, “Just keep taking your medications. It will be alright.” There’s no question that Beachy is able to laugh at himself.
He also laughs at a lot of other circumstances—some more amusing to a general audience than others. Beachy has some genuinely entertaining stories, such as the chapter “Murder Mountain,” but his attempt to translate humor across lingual and cultural divides—which can be tricky for any author to navigate—is not always successful.
Beachy does better when telling stories about the closeness of the community. “God’s Quilt”, the chapter about the death of a neighbor, is the most prominent example, but everything from the group vacations he goes on to the church services in which everyone has a part testify to the admirable unity of the Amish.
As a teacher, Beachy—along with his two co-teachers—are responsible for the education of the all children, grades first through eighth, in their vicinity. Each grade has a handful of students, and they are often taught along with students from several other grades. Scenes not common in the modern educational system, such as spelling bees and morning devotionals, are frequent, and recesses consist of the whole school playing softball.
Sports are actually a favorite topic for Beachy. Although there are no organized sport leagues, he seems to be constantly playing—with the children, against other schools, or with family members in other Amish communities. Softball appears to be the most common sport, but basketball and volleyball also make appearances. When not competing, Beachy is often participating in other physical activities: hiking and canoeing for recreation and biking for transportation.
His other most frequent subject is traveling—a dozen of the chapters are travelogues of Beachy’s vacations around the United States. Although he travels by train and often stays with Amish or German Baptist friends, these vacation accounts seem more like they were written to tell people back home about his adventures than to enlighten outside readers about Amish life, and include tales already familiar to the general public of hiking the Grand Canyon, stopping at fast food joints, and touring San Francisco.
The inclusion of the word “bachelor” in the subtitle of the book appears to be more of a gimmick to lure fans of Amish romances than an actual description of the focus of the book. Yes, Beachy is single. But aside from the chapter about a box social and one about biking through the rain to attend a wedding, courtship is hardly a reoccurring topic. He does travel with a group of other single young adults, but the interactions between genders tend to be of the middle school variety: the girls wrap the boys’ possessions in pink duct tape or spray their hats with perfume, and the boys retaliate by tipping the girls’ canoes or stealing their camping chair. Beachy certainly doesn’t discuss chasing any particular girl, and his bachelorhood is apparently no closer to coming to an end at the conclusion of the book than it was at the beginning.
Devotees of the Amish romance genre or readers seeking an insider’s expose of Amish life will likely be disappointed; however, those desiring some amusing and touching anecdotes, sprinkled with a number of interesting details about Amish life, by a young man who sincerely loves his community’s traditions, will be well served to chase down a copy of Beachy’s dream.