Book Report: Writers take cues from earlier centuries

Several writers are taking their cues from earlier centuries. In the 18th century, Samuel Richardson found he had a bestseller on his hands when he wasn’t even trying.

Later novelists like Charles Dickens wrote their books serially. Dickens would write a chapter at a time which would then be published in magazines like “Household Words.”

British readers would read a chapter in “David Copperfield” and then waited anxiously for the next chapter.

These days, authors turn 19th century “chapters” into entire books. I, for instance, am a fan of Julie Kramer, whose books follow serially the adventures of Minneapolis investigative reporter Riley Spartz. She also takes a cue from old Richardson by reproducing TV scripts in the hearts of her novels.

Oregon author Rosalind Lauer has taken her cue from 19th century author Anthony Trollope (“Barchester Towers” and “The Warden”), who wrote a popular series of novels all about an English cathedral town called the Barsetshire Chronicles.

Whereas Trollope wrote of Anglican politics, Lauer writes about the Amish way of life as exemplified by the King family in her series called Seasons of Lancaster.

Her latest outing is “A Simple Autumn,” (Ballantine, $15 paper), which follows earlier novels, “A Simple Winter” and “A Simple Spring.”

Each of Lauer’s novels segue into the next. In “A Simple Autumn” Jonah King, who has become leader in his Amish household after the murder of his parents, has a problem.

He has a all-consuming crush on a young neighbor girl, Annie Stoltzfus, but she has eyes only for Josh’s brother Adam, who, unfortunately, has fallen for an ‘Englischer,” a non-Amish girl, with the unlikely name of Remy, who is learning the ways of the King family.

\Along the way, the reader is introduced to the ways of the Amish, their low German language and the “Ordnung” which lays down the law of how they should act. One old couple is being shunned because the old man has been caught driving the neighbor’s Jeep.

Nevertheless, they are allowed to attend a Sunday service after which a picnic lunch is served.

Poor Remy plops potato salad on the plates of the shunned couple and everyone gets in an uproar.

Finally Annie’s mother explains to Remy that such generosity isn’t done until the shunned couple is completely forgiven and the rest of the bowl of potato salad must be destroyed.

Amish people don’t waste anything, so Annie’s mother gives all the potato salad to the shunned couple.

Editor’s note: Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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