When I drive out of my housing development, whether I turn right or left, I pass an Amish school. The little white buildings sit quietly except for during recess, when the yards teem with boys in hats and girls in scarves running around everywhere.
I wonder often about questing minds among these playing kids, kids whose education will be limited to the eighth grade. If the child has a practical bent to their intelligence, no problem. There are many ways within the Amish culture to develop that practicality and to excel. But what if you have a mind that thrives on ideas and the pursuit of ideas, a mind that wants above everything to learn?
My wondering about that last question is the basis for An Unexpected Match. If Rachel, our heroine, were Englisch, she’d be an academic. What does she do in a culture that fears education, even forbids it? How does she reconcile her God-given yearning to learn with her culture’s denial of that opportunity?
Here’s a snippet from chapter 13, showing Rachel speaking with some of her new friends from a nighttime college class she’s secretly attending…
* * *
“This isn’t a history class or a science class where you spit out facts. It may be a basic comp class, but you have to go deeper. You go into your emotions and thoughts, not just facts. Anyone can find facts. Only you can write your reactions.”
Rob ate half his tuna melt before he spoke again. “You mean I have to explain that I wanted companionship? Someone who didn’t demand unreasonable things from me? I have to admit I was smitten by a dog’s lolling tongue and sad eyes asking for help?”
“Lolling tongue,” Rachel said. “She’d like that.”
“What’d you write about?” he asked.
“Why I’m taking this class.”
Amy pointed a French fry at her. “And I bet you didn’t write about the statistics that people who go to college get better jobs and make more money.”
“I wrote about my heart’s yearning for more education, my consuming passion to learn.”
“And I wrote about my need to leave my small narrow home for a larger world,” Amy said. “Not about the finances of leaving home or the dangers or the resulting independence. I wrote why I had to get away or die.” She grinned. “Got a B.”
Rob shook his head. “So she wants us to rip out our guts and write in blood.”
“You got it.” Amy patted his hand like a mother who was proud of her son.
“I’m going to be a money man. Numbers. Markets. A plus B equals C. I do facts and probabilities, not feelings.”
“What are you writing about for next Friday?” Rachel asked. She felt impatient that she had to wait a whole week for the next class because of Labor Day. “We can brainstorm with you.”
“I don’t know.” He grinned that adorable grin of his. “It’s not Thursday night yet.”
* * *
Read more about Rachel’s dilemma and discover her ultimate choice in An Unexpected Match.