A different life seems appealing. After all, “the grass is always greener on the other side” isn’t an idiom for nothing. But a sense of wanderlust in Amish youth might seem at odds with their culture. Perhaps that’s a reason for their rumspringa–to allow them to experience more of the world to help inform their perceptions of the world around them, such as in A World Away by Nancy Grossman.
Eliza has grown up in an Amish community in Iowa, with a growing sense of rebellion in the form of her fascination with the English world. Her curiosity is occasionally sated through the Stranger Nights at her home where her mother prepares dinner for the visiting English to allow for them to ask questions about the Amish way of life. During one of these Stranger Nights a woman, Rachel, seems to have quite a bit of knowledge about Amish traditions, particularly that of rumspringa, so when she comes to Eliza with the proposition of being her family’s nanny for the summer just outside of Chicago, a sense of hope fills Eliza to experience a new part of the world; however, convincing her stern mother is a task that will take some doing, but once done, changes her relationships and perceptions as she has a greater understanding of the world at large. But will she want to stay in the English world or go back to her Amish life?
With a story about Amish youth and culture, there are many possibilities to edify the general populace about their culture in an entertaining manner. Grossman did that, but on a cursory level; I feel as if the narrative could have delved deeper into Amish culture and its interaction with English culture. There was some initial explanation of Eliza’s wonder at many of the new things that she experiences while working for Rachel’s family, but it died out rather quickly and assumed a nonchalance that I didn’t think quite fit with the character or story. I enjoyed how the story was ultimately resolved, yet there is an openness to the ending that allows for many possibilities for how Eliza’s life turns out.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.