At age twenty-two, headstrong Katie Lapp struggles within the Old Order Amish community of Hickory Hollow (population 253) in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Although with her love of music, her passion for color, and her dreams of elegant fashion and embroidered fabrics, she has never been comfortable within the plain-style Amish life, she was baptized at age nineteen and is preparing to marry the community’s bishop, John Beiler, a forty-something widower with five children. The love of her life, Daniel Fisher, with whom she had shared her love of music, disappeared three years earlier in a boating accident in Atlantic City. She does not love Beiler (the marriage’s unpromising premise is underscored by the wedding being prepared even as an unforgiving winter descends), but she is willing to accept the submissive role long assigned Amish women.
When Katie is rummaging the attic for her mother’s wedding gown, she comes across a rose-colored satin infant’s gown embroidered with the name “Katherine Mayfield.” Her imagination ignited, she queries her mother, who tells her nothing. The next day, Katie discovers the gown is gone.
Even as preparations for the wedding continue, Katie runs afoul of the strict Amish code that forbids performing music other than hymns. As Katie conducts the family’s buggy along a back country road, she absently sings aloud a beautiful melody, the last she and Daniel had written (music, she insists defiantly, is part of what God created in her). One of Bishop Beiler’s children happens to overhear her and inadvertently reveals the offense during a dinner with both families. Such willful sinning is addressed in public confession, conducted by her future husband, who lectures Katie about the need to turn away from such godless inclinations and then insists that she destroy her guitar to restore her to the faith. Later, however, Katie cannot do it.
Meanwhile community members have noticed a fancy white car with a chauffeur and a woman with auburn hair, dressed in fur, an outsider, trying to locate a mother named Rebecca with a daughter in her early twenties. The woman stops at the general store and happens to meet Katie’s great-aunt, Ella Mae...
(The entire section is 908 words.)