BURNHAM - Big Valley has its place in the newly released Beverly Lewis book, "The Thorn."
Lewis will be in the area as part of her publicity tour for her first book in The Rose Trilogy stopping first at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 15, at Friendship Bookstore in Burnham and will appear the next day at 10 a.m. at Guardian Angel Bookstore along Route 35 in Richfield.
Lewis spoke about her new book by phone from her Colorado home. The New York Times and USA Today Best Selling author has written and published more than 80 children and adult fiction books over the past 20 years.
Novels such as "The Shunning," "The Covenant" and "The Betrayal," and now "The Thorn" give an in-depth look at the Amish life through fiction. Lewis, though, takes her story-writing very seriously and makes her books as realistic as possible.
The opening chapter of "The Thorn" mentions the great-uncle of the main character, Rose, who resided in the Amish community of Big Valley.
In the second paragraph of the first chapter, Lewis said, "Her great-uncle argued with the Big Valley Bishop about a mustache. Because he refused to shave it, he ended up in Lancaster County."
Research, she shared, is at the heart of what she puts on paper. Lewis, her husband, and children had lived with Amish families briefly over the past 20 years for the sake of making her novels as accurate as possible.
"I love hearing and knowing more and more. It's just fascinating, and I am always interested," she said.
Now a grandmother, Lewis shared she no longer places herself inside Amish homes, but frequently returns to Amish communities, particularly Lancaster County where she grew up. The Thorn Tour will have her in the heart of Lancaster County before she makes it to Mifflin and Juniata counties' bookstores.
"This will be my third trip in 11 months to Lancaster County," she noted.
Lewis has a family background that includes the Plain People. Her maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buckwalter left the old Mennonite Order to marry a Bible College student. Lewis' created her first adult fiction character, Katie Lapp, loosely based on her grandmother in "The Shunning."
"The Thorn" is set in a community southeast of Quarryville, Lancaster County after the devastating flood of 1984.
The "thorns" of the plot include a rebellious New York City foster child in an Amish community and a former Amish woman's plight with losing her modern husband and returning to the plain life. The main character, Rose Kauffman finds herself drawn to the foster son of the bishop, a rebellious sort of fellow whose home in her community is temporary. Her older sister, Hen, has left the community and married an English man. The couple's union has produced a daughter and now Hen is concerned with what the outside world may do to her child. Both sisters are torn between the modern and plain worlds.
The Thorn and all other Lewis novels are filled with characters that are "completely made up," she said, but the trials they endure are based on real circumstances in their world.
"Young people make foolish mistakes, and sometimes it affects them in a far greater magnitude than they had thought," she added, much like young people in any other culture.
Even though she has a number of friends and family among the Plain Community,Lewis said she often meets young and older Amish members at her book signings.
Many times, she said, teenage Amish girls come in small groups to her signings, whispering to one another and clutching their copies of a Lewis novel. The author also has met elderly Amish women in wheelchairs who make their way to her table speaking Pennsylvania Dutch.
When Lewis is visiting Amish-owned businesses in Lancaster County, women from the community will approach her and ask her the same question, "How do you know so much about our weddings?"
"I have one little (Amish ) girl who is 10 years old and wrote me asking me to be her pen pal. She sends pictures to me from time to time," Lewis added.
Throughout her career she has trod the steps of the "simple" life in places such as Ohio, Indiana, upstate New York, Kentucky and even a "retirement" area for the Amish in Florida.
Her favorite backdrop for a story, however, is the historic locations of the"old, old Amish order" based on the first settlement of the Anabaptist people in the late 1500s in Lancaster County.
The main characters in the Thorn have roots in this Order and are struggling with what the future holds. The gap between their Amish lifestyle and the modern world of the 1980s is a large one, and the women are confused as to what is best for them.
Copies of The Thorn are available at both Friendship Bookstore in Burnham and Guardian Angel Bookstore in Richfield. The next book in the series, The Judgment, will be released in April 2011.
More information on Beverly Lewis is available online at www.beverlylewis.com.