Eagle Designs
Kelly Long

Kelly Long is the author of the Patch of Heaven series—contemporary Amish fiction— and the brand-new Arms of Love, a historical Amish novel. She enjoys life in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania with her husband and children. Of this new novel, she says, “Writing historical Amish is a great privilege, the portrayal of a legacy of quiet people whose strength of will conquers when others have failed. But even more important to me than historical facts in Arms of Love—like the Amish did not drive buggies but variations of the Conestoga wagon, did not begin to quilt until the 1800s, and did not wear bonnets but flat-brimmed straw hats with moleskin ties—is the bonus material in the book. I wrote a four week personalized Novel Bible Study that uses the novel itself as a launching point for biblical application. Arms of Love is unique; a read for the history buff, the Bible student, and the lover of the Amish way of life.” Connect with Kelly on her Facebook page.

Genre Happenings

Bonnets, Buggies, and Quilts
Think You Know Amish?

The gas powered lights are dim in the Amish store and the aisles are cramped with goods that cater to both Englisch and Amish alike. The book section is especially crowded as mothers from both worlds scan the shelves for things suitable for their families to read. I see the traditional Little House titles, books by Amish authors, and some classics like Treasure Island. On one shelf of older reading materials I find a prize—The Drummer’s Wife and Other Stories from the Martyrs’ Mirror. Sounds dry, right? But actually it’s a translated collection from the book the Amish value second only to their Bibles.

On a recent buggy ride with Tim King, an Amish man in his mid-forties, patient, weathered, and charmingly talkative, I ask if his family has a copy of the Martyrs’ Mirror. He replies with faint alarm. “Ach, yep, surely.” He goes on to tell me that the value of the book lies in its accounts of the horrific and tremendous persecution suffered by the Amish before they immigrated to America. He says, “We must remember so that we do not ever do the same.” And then I understand the amazing response by the Amish to the Nickel Mine shootings . . . how they embraced the child and wife of the killer. They will not hate; they understand the power of hatred firsthand.

In a literary world inundated with the idealized Amish life, it is important to remember the history of these people, a history characterized by persecution, loss, and difficulty. The blanketed fields that we associate with Amish communities began with a very small kernel of Amish population that has grown to survive and thrive beneath the hand of God. Without a doubt, their strength today lies in the power and responsiveness of community. But it was not always so, and I wanted to understand the beginnings of the Amish faith in Penn’s Woods (Pennsylvania) so that I could portray my characters with the depth and wealth of historical accuracy behind them. So in the subgenre of Amish, the beginnings of a new look at the way of life of this people is found in Arms of Love.

I soon discovered, though, that Amish history is largely oral in tradition in the America of 1777. I searched old books on Lancaster and dissidents—the Amish, in general, did not participate in the bearing of arms during the War for Independence, unless a man would leave his faith behind. I read agrarian reports on the cultivation and clearing of William Penn’s land. And then I discovered the genius resource of Dr. Steven Nolt, who is the author of ten books, mainly dealing

with Amish and Mennonite life, and was unfailingly kind to me in answering my many questions. His counsel on the time period led me to books like Rural Pennsylvania Clothing and Sunbonnets and Shoofly Pies—which were meticulously researched in details of early American Amish life. Even the emergence of what we call Penn Dutch today has its dialectical roots in words used by the Amish of this time.

In all of this research, I was most surprised by the sheer lack of numbers of Amish who lived at the turn of the eighteenth century―approximately only 1200 lived here until another migration in the early 1800s. Choosing to follow evangelical Christians, intermarrying into other peace-keeping sects, or leaving the faith for personal reasons took a heavy toll on the burgeoning communities. More than that, these desertions attacked the very sense of community that so characterizes the Amish of today. Yet, God had a plan for this people as thousands now thrive and work in many different states.


Arms Of Love