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5.0 out of 5 starsfunny reading after a long day of heavy technical and/or ...
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2017
I read the first few books in this series years ago and decided to read them again. Loving! I'm a proofreader of court reporting transcripts, reading scintillating topics such as asbestos, tobacco, patent infringement, etc. These books are such welcome light, funny reading after a long day of heavy technical and/or medical transcripts. So glad I discovered this series again! :)
5.0 out of 5 starsRed-Face & Horns. Get Gourmet Swiss Cheese in Farmersburg, Ohio
Reviewed in the United States on May 3, 2006
My eyes moved with the sensual ease of cream pouring over pages. Yah. By the time an author heads into the third book in a long running series, an exuberant rhythm of confidence has often been achieved and firmly activated. When reading a third book I can almost feel the author's blood pumping with an awareness of "This is how I was meant to write; I'm on a roll." This is not to say that the first and second books are anything less than this; each sequential book, according to my over-baked theories, has different, yet equal assets based on its order.
I ordered this book from Amazon's marketplace of various venders, wanting to own one of the original versions of the hardback which is no longer in print. An ex-library copy seemed to be my perfect option. When I released the library's protective, clear plastic cover, I was pleasantly surprised that the book jacket felt better than new. It was free of any flaws I could discern, shiny, glossy, and colorfully gorgeous.
Having sensed how uncannily the yummy art on the hardcover's jacket would reflect the mood and theme of the story, each time I noticed the fan of sliced Swiss cheese, and skull-trail of milk set off by a brown, orange, and green quilt; each time I picked up the book for a continued read, I felt a jolt of joy, realizing I was holding in my hands a cohesive, coherent, colorful whole of a physical and mental mesh. Ironically, as richly sensual as this pleasure was, I wondered if a dedicated Amish person might be spirited to fondle that photographic-stylized cover face, setting aside for a moment any fears of succumbing to the addictive siren of meaningful artistic luxury.
(Sue Grafton deserves this luxury, too! see the conclusion of my review of "S.")
Introducing the murder with an early morning phone call to Magda at her PenDutch Inn gave a perfect contrast to the opening scenes in Myers's first two novels in this PenDutch series, including the fact that the call took Mags away from the Inn, to Farmersburg, Ohio for the duration of the plot. As much as I like being "in" that Inn, I enjoyed as much or more observing Madgdelana, Susannah, and Freni immersed within a pure Amish community.
I was fascinated with the increase of Amish lore here, around the Gordian knots of "family ties" in this clannish, cozy culture; and I was entertained by the descriptions of repetitions of noses, names, feet, and faces. Equally effective in establishing setting and lore were the bouncing seas of black buggies and shifting seas of black backs at major communal events like funerals. And of course, the periodic tension was telling, around rights and wrongs in dress, thought, speech, and behavior. Daily rituals were eye-openers in exposing the realities of electrical absence, like the heating of supper dish water on the stove prior to clearing the table, the lighting of kerosene lanterns instead of clicking light switches, and sleeping in cold upstairs bedrooms with fires roaring (or banked quietly) only on first floor levels, and sometimes only in the kitchen hearth.
The contrast between the English, Mennonite, and Amish was brought out humorously in many venues, one being the use and payment of English or Mennonite drivers when Amish need to travel to far reaching communities to attend funerals, weddings, or the like. The conversations were hilariously enlightening between Magdalena Yoder a well-stretched Mennonite, and Harriet from Goshen Indiana, a snickering Englisher "chauffeur" who was haughtily disdainful of Amish ways, about which she didn't have a toe hold of comprehension. When Harriet thought Magda was Irish, or maybe Jewish, Mags didn't come forth with her history; she bubbled the fun, playing off the reader's awareness of Harriet's foot swallowing.
Speaking of which, the food scenes and recipes were prime-timed-and-luscious, down-home-simple-and-rich, with humor sprinkled into the genuine Amish mix as a bonus of cultural spice.
A few sensitive scenes perfectly relieved the hilarity of Myers's style, one between an Amish minister and Magda, which revealed some of the base of Amish beliefs, and another during a supper scene at Annie's home in which Magda endearingly set aside snide remarks to comfort a lonely old woman. Providing a contrasting release to Magda's continual rolls through hilarity, these scenes exposed that Myers could clearly write serious works with as much power and cultural excavation as she does comedy. She has an uncanny ability to interject with a natural ease, emotionally sensitive scenes within a habitual flow of hilarity.
In addition to the above literary achievements of no small accord, the mystery in Spilled Milk was perfectly percolated throughout, and boiled over with much needed heat in the winter chill of an abandoned barn.
Magdalena's romantic vulnerability to Aaron Miller was endearing when it slipped through her snippets of effervescent sarcasm, and I loved his protectiveness, his devotion to her compelling him across snow covered countrysides (to stand by her side) via a snowmobile spree from Hernia, PA to Farmersburg, OH, sliding with speed across winter treacherous terrain. In fact, all plays on Amish attempts to dim the surge of sexuality were especially entertaining and enlightening in this plot of milk and cheese.
Probably what I was most involved in here was the increased (without over expansion, glorification, or discounting) revelations of Amish ways and core beliefs, especially beliefs in the existence of incarnated evil and the cultivation of humility, accompanied by a revulsion (sometimes a fear) of Pride, all of which was creamily blended into production of the best Swiss cheese available under Heaven. The complex, sometimes trip-wired underpinnings of serious religious dogma was exposed with such finesse here, no revered angle was slapped in the face. Yet, the trip-wires were heated to a slight red glow, just enough to see, if a reader chose to focus with respectful, retrospect contemplation.
My afterthoughts included an intriguing conflict between the Amish dim view of Pride, and my belief that pride in accomplishment is what cajols the soul to remain embodied within a physical world. Allowing myself to wallow in pride of something I had a hand in creating is what allows me the will to keep going, fueling myself with at least a minimal amount of what I see as one of the purest types of spiritual joy. Yet, for the Amish, high compliments on their work or mine would be viewed as the ultimate evil in crime.
I understand the seductive dangers of pride. Possibly it's easier, safer, and wiser to rule all of it's facets as dangerously deadly, to disallow complexities of sunlight and shadow to darken one's path to light after death.
For my choice of life, though, I hope to achieve and maintain that balance of relishing the sensuality of a physical world, of an embodied life, without allowing the immensity of satisfaction to posses or compel me, to the point of abandoning integrity. Walking that balance lifts the traveler onto an oh so difficult tightrope; I understand the seduction, the heartening sense of security of living at the more subtly sensual, ground level of life, without wallowing too often or long in the potential quicksands of pleasure, pride, joy, and ease.
At least, when I vicariously experience various levels of lifestyles in fiction, I have less fear of losing my ambition into a the hazy lazy days of an eternal, comforting summer, no discontent sought or swallowed. And, without having to shoulder the hernia causing hard work of farm life, I can also enjoy the quiet sensuality of the Amish lifestyle, and their yummy food!
Returning to conclude the winter of our current novel ...
The collection of ending chapters-and-verses of Spilled Milk (and rich Swiss cheese) had a hearty punch and heightened sparkle. Being the sentimental slob that I am, yet still able to bubble in fun at the best or worst of times, I didn't just read, but reveled in the last couple pages.
Do we be wary of the morrow of life?
Read, and read, and read ... live, and live, and live ... and see.
1.0 out of 5 starsMain character was sarcastic throughout in the most stupid of ways
Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2015
Main character was sarcastic throughout in the most stupid of ways. Witless, not witty. Character was very immature in love life especially since she was older by far than most similar characters elsewhere. The sister was an airhead & added nothing to the story. Actual mystery was fairly interesting but it couldn't save itself with such a distracting lead.
This is a silly series but I enjoy Ms Myers style of writing. The plots have interesting twists and the characters are engaging. I have read a few of this series and I have grown quite fond of Magdelena. Certainly not pulitzer prize material but nice for a rainy afternoon or perhaps a plane ride
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2001
In this Penn-Dutch mystery, Magdalena gets involved in murders revolving around a cheese factory. Once again, Ms. Myers' wonderful sense of humor and colorful characters make for a most cozy read. Though this is the third in the series (it's a good idea to read them in order, as the characters' subplots progress) it's as fresh as the first.