Brief Reviews, VOLUME 4

Brief Review: PLAIN WISDOM by Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud [Vol. 4, #13]

459343: Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women

A Brief Review of

Plain Wisdom:
An Invitation into an Amish Home
and the Hearts of Two Women

By Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud.
Paperback: WaterBrook Press, 2011.

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Reviewed by Brittany Buczynski.

This delightful little volume of homespun anecdotes, recipes, and spiritual insights is full of more simplicity and charm than most books twice its size could manage. Two friends—one Amish housewife, one English (i.e., non-Amish) novelist—together narrate each chapter’s theme with their own experiences, and the reader gets the pleasure of learning a bit about the not-so-different lives of both lovely women.

Cindy and Miriam share more than a friendship. Their close bond ultimately grows out of their love for Jesus and their love for their families. As mothers and wives, they have gleaned much wisdom, and they are now eager to share it with their readers. Taking part in this fellowship, one feels rather privileged to have happened upon such a heartfelt pair of writers and friends.

Each chapter opens with a Scripture to set the tone for the stories to come. Topics include everything from Christmas to Easter, gratitude to grief, the births of children to the passing of parents, and many beautiful and painful moments in between. The chapters are short and self-contained, and they would lend themselves perfectly to use as a daily devotional aid. In fact, the real-life stories of these two friends hit much closer to home than those dry, fabricated illustrations that clutter so many Christian devotionals. I found myself struggling to stop reading, knowing how disappointed I would be when I finally reached the end of the book.

This review would be remiss without mention of the rich collection of recipes nestled between its pages. As simple and nourishing as the stories themselves, these recipes include Amish classics like buttermilk biscuits, zucchini bread, and shoofly pie, plus simple desserts like Christmas salad (hint: the main ingredient is Jell-O). Sharing some of their favorite recipes seems to be just one more way Cindy and Miriam wanted to reach out and connect with their readers. It’s as if they said, “We wish you could come over and taste this amazing chocolate coffee cake we just baked. But since our kitchens are far apart, here’s the recipe. Try it out.” Although I haven’t yet tried any of the recipes myself, their inclusion definitely adds to the book’s overall appeal.

Perhaps the best part of Plain Wisdom is its unassuming air. The authors are not PhDs or pastors; they are normal, everyday women who want to share the lessons God has taught them—and they want to do it in a friendly, authentic way. You won’t find a hint of superiority from either woman, nor a speck of legalism, which is surprising considering how different their daily lives can be. But again, that’s part of the book’s genuine charm. Cindy can complain about e-mail overload and thank God for cell phones, while Miriam vents about endless sewing and describes the merits of a wood-burning stove. Both respect each other’s trials and commiserate about the things in life that don’t change based on how or where you live. After all, those unchanging things are the ones that matter most.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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