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A Plain Life Hardcover – March 21, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Author Scott Savage recalls how he patiently waited for his assigned number to be called at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. "B-1!" the agent finally announced, and the humble Quaker stepped forward. "I want my driver's license revoked," Savage calmly explained. The agent slowly smiled as she studied the strange, Amish-looking man before her. Why would he want his license revoked?

"I could explain that I used to wear a suit and tie and sit in front of computer screen, that I made an hour-long commute to work," writes author Scott Savage (The Plain Reader). "That nowadays I get around by horse and buggy and I like it a lot better." But the reasons run deeper than an aesthetic preference for buggies. It took Savage (who is also the editor of Plain magazine) a week to make his pilgrimage across Ohio to reach the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. A Plain Life chronicles this journey as Savage candidly reveals why he needed to disconnect from the world of "instant mobility." "Losing control over where I can go puts me into a stronger relationship with people where I am--into a relationship of community," he writes. Through flashbacks and reflections, this highly acclaimed writer invites readers into his compelling Quaker community, where he spends his days doing rural chores, fathering a clan of imaginative young children, tending an inspirational marriage, and moving slowly as he follows the Quaker path. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

The editor of Plain magazine and of A Plain Reader chronicles his latest steps toward living the spiritual values and insights that have marked his life as a conservative Quaker. Recently, Savage walked 120 miles across the state of Ohio to voluntarily turn in his driver's license. The eight-day trek confirmed a belief that he once had expressed to an Amish neighbor who was curious about Savage's switch from cars to horse and buggy: "I told him... that I had become willing with the help of the Holy Spirit to trade some convenience for the privilege of becoming more responsible for the place where I live." As he walks, he ponders Jesus' beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, interweaving commentaries, personal reflections and passing observations to illuminate our utter dependence on God. Thus, Savage replaces the King James version of the first beatitude ("Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven") with what he says is a "little more precise" New English Bible translation: "How blest are those who know that they are poor; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs." Although his walk itself comes across more as a structuring device than as a real journey, this "plain Christian's" peripatetic musings on how to live a whole and honest life could benefit readers of all beliefs and lifestyles. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Later prt. edition (March 21, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345438035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345438034
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Savage offers insight on what a plain life really is. Some of us confuse this with the `simpler life' we hear about, a supposedly easier, leisure-filled life thanks to modern technology. As many have noticed, the technology we use in hopes of giving us more free time actually gives us more time to do more `stuff', often with more stuff. There can be an emptiness that comes along with all of the stuff, extra time some of us seek to fill with more activities and more stuff. What seems to be most lacking is a connection with people, with our community.
Giving up a driver's license is no small thing. Being able to drive an automobile in our society means independence - teen-agers and the elderly particularly find getting or maintaining possession of a driver's license paramount to their quality of life. But they aren't alone. If you do not drive, but travel by foot, bicycle or horse and buggy, you realize your world both shrinks and expands. Physically, it consists of places and events that are close enough to get to within a day. It expands because that smaller surrounding must be more filled with community, and the people you are more dependent upon.
Although he and his wife became Quakers in the beginning of their journey, most of what he writes about community comes from their experiences with the Amish families they first lived near.
This kind of community didn't exist at all if it only existed in one's mind, as for example in a computer-driven `virtual community.'"
"Unlike pretend or fantasy communities, the real one we were learning from wasn't filled with folks hand-picked for their similarities. They did not necessarily really, really like one another, nor completely share the same interests.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Kargel on March 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I attended an author reading in Portland, and found Scott Savage personally to be engaging, and utterly sincere. Buy, borrow, get ahold of this book and read it. It is inspiring, challenging, bordering on life-changing. It may change the way you view the Plain Folk, or it may lead to to incorporate plain ideals into your own life.
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51 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Toledo on September 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Everyone else has written such glowing reviews of this book, I almost hate to rain on the parade. Maybe I am just too cynical to be reached by this book, but I couldn't even get through it. His tone came across to me as smug and self-righteous. He and his community and his family can't possibly be as wonderful as he tries to convince us they are. He also seems (oddly) naive. As someone who grew up in a conservative religious community (though not "plain," I confess), I can tell you that for every positive, wonderful thing about it, there is an equally strong negative. They are not utopias. They are full of flawed human beings who can inflict deep, slow-to-heal wounds on those who don't fit in. Surely Mr. Savage can see that there is a big difference between voluntarily choosing as an adult to make the choices he has made and being raised in such a community with three or four generations of tradition behind you and feeling nearly strangled by all that weight. While that doesn't invalidate Mr. Savage's good experiences with the plain people, it does indicate that it is not the community he has chosen, but the fact that he *is* choosing, discovering his own values and making hard choices to live up to those values, that is important. His smug self-satisfaction with the plain lifestyle would be bearable if he acknowledged that there are other ways to achieve spiritual depth, but he doesn't--or at least, not in the first half of the book, which is as far as I could make it. I'm giving it three stars, though, because there were some very interesting descriptions of how the Amish and Quakers live and believe--and also for his daughter Tasha's wonderful puns, which I won't spoil for you if you are planning on reading it. :-)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Land of Hope and Dreams on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Both "A Plain Life" and "The Plain Reader" are eloquent guides written on the road of simplicity and faith. Wise, soulful and humble in presentation, they will cause you to reflect upon your own life and that which you hold dear. I highly recommend both of these titles with appreciation to Mr. Savage for sharing his reflections in such a meaningful and profound manner...
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
To say I "enjoyed" this book would underrate it. It went to the core of me, changed my thinking, and intrigued me. Savage makes the world he has chosen to live in very attractive, peaceful,spiritual, and rich. As we are bombarded with technology, the loss of community, and the effects of the automobile, the simpleness of the Amish and Quaker life seems wonderful. As he related the Beatitudes to his current jouney, he pushed me to consider a different way of looking at them. This quiet little volume is one that I will add to my list of books that changed me.
I borrowed this from the library, but after reading it have ordered it so that I may keep it, underline it, and return to it when I need to sort through this modern existence. I have suggested that my sophomore in college read it as he is very opposed to the organized religious institutions he has witnessed. I hope he will see that God exists in our lives, as we work, walk, and commune with others.
I would like to know a little more about him. Many things about his former life were left out of this. However, the book isn't about him, it's about his belief and the society that he in which he lives that belief. Thanks, Scott Savage.
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