Reviewed by Marshall Hughes
Leaving Lancaster by Kate Lloyd
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"The book is upbeat, and the characters real, if not always their dialogue and their situations."
Thirty-something Holly lives in Seattle with her mother and struggles
to make ends meet, especially after losing her job. Life is not going as
she had planned, and, come to think of it, never having had any family
besides her mother has always left her feeling a bit isolated. Holly longs
for siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents, but has never had any of
One day Holly’s mother, Esther, reveals that not only does Holly have living grandparents and other relatives, but that these relatives are begging Holly and Esther to come visit them. All the relatives live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, right in the heart of Amish country, which is where Esther grew up. Understandably, Holly is not happy to have been deceived all these years.
Why did Esther run away as a teen and why has she never told Holly about her extended family?
Mom and daughter decide to take a quick trip to see the family, especially since Esther’s mother is quite old and sick. What follows is an interesting tale that is best read by ignoring the many cringe-worthy editing lapses in the book.
The book is upbeat, and the characters real, if not always their dialogue and their situations. The reader might wonder why Holly’s Amish relatives sometimes speak to each other in standard American English and sometimes speak to each other in a heavy, Pennsylvania-Dutch accent.
Also, it seems to stretch the imagination to think that Esther could make a living from her small Amish store in Seattle. Is there really a strong contingent of Amish-loving people in Seattle who buy enough Amish jam and jelly to keep a store solvent?
The main struggles of Holly and Esther are not only financial but also social. Holly is not satisfied with the crop of men available to her in Seattle, and Esther has been single since her husband disappeared during the Vietnam War, two months before Holly was born.
Both women get chances at love while on the trip, but each has to decide if they are at a point in life where they can accept a radically new (or in Esther’s case a long-lost) lifestyle.
Leaving Lancaster is clearly written for a female audience as there are no male characters of any real importance until the later part of the book. Still, it is a book that can be enjoyed by all... as long as you’re not a copy editor by trade.
Marshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.