The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life

The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life

by Sherry Gore


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310335580
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/25/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 653,503
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sherry Gore is the the author of two cookbooks, "Simply Delicious Amish Cooking" and "Me, Myself and Pie" and co-author of the novel "Made with Love.” She is also a weekly scribe for the national edition of the Amish newspaper, The Budget, established in 1890. The National Geographic Channel featured Sherry prominently their documentary series, Amish: Out of Order. Sherry's culinary adventures have been seen on NBC Daytime, the Today Show, Mr. Food Test Kitchen and more. Sherry is a year-round resident of beautiful, sun-kissed Sarasota, Florida, the vacation paradise of the Plain People. She has three children and is a member of a Beachy Amish Mennonite church. When not spending time with her family, writing, or eating, Sherry is a cooking show host, and an official pie contest judge.

Read an Excerpt

The Plain Choice

By Sherry Gore


Copyright © 2015 Sherry Gore
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33558-0



It was almost Christmas .

My little sister April called in the evening, but I wasn't home; I was in the park with my friend Fannie watching Amish men play shuff leboard. Snowbird season was at its height in Pinecraft, when busloads of Amish and Mennonite people head south to ring in the New Year with laughter, old friends, and a healthy dose of ice cream.

Plump smiling women clogged Kaufman Avenue, trading status updates with friends just emerged from harvest, while men leaned against their bicycles to swap stories of corn silage and thresher mishaps.

At Pinecraft Park, young girls blushed at boys from across volleyball nets, hearts and minds inf lamed, while bearded men resembling garden gnomes pet pink-leashed wiener dogs carping at squirrels.

Even English (non-Amish) folks strolled through, forever wishing to understand these mystifying people who earn simple lives with hard labor and ratify their choice in faith.

It was a far cry from where I grew up in Orange County; there wasn't a drop of spray tan or hubris to be found.

And while my sister April and I had bonded as California girls, ours was a love that could cross any line, including a cultural one. I supported her through her struggles with addiction even as I entered the Plain community. I shared my love for Jesus. I knew she would likely never follow my Plain path, but we stayed close in geography and in spirit, and it was a rare day when she didn't enter my thoughts.

But thinking of a person and hearing them are two different things. And as I walked through Pinecraft Park with Fannie on that wonderful December evening, I had no idea my sister was desperately trying to reach me on my home phone. I wish I had, because maybe I could've stopped what was soon to come. Maybe I could've heard her and things would've been different. But she was in her world and I in mine.

And sometimes that's just too far away to reach.

At six o'clock the next morning the phone rang again, and this time I was home to pick it up. The caller ID said "April." It wasn't like her to call so early.

"Hey, April, what's wrong?"

She didn't answer. I heard panting on the other end of the line, as if someone were running.


A crash, something large shattering over the f loor, and then muff led sobs.


Footsteps and a grunt, then a high-pitched yell and Joe, April's boyfriend, screaming into the phone: "She won't wake up!"


"April! Oh God, she's blue and the ambulance is here!"

"Wait ... no, what do you mean? Joe, what's happening?"

"April's dead! She's dead! 911's here and they said she's dead!"

"Oh God ..."

His voice crackled over the line, "She's blue! She's blue!"

The line went dead.

I fell against the refrigerator and pressed my face into the cold door.

"... April."

Then I was moving to the bedroom. Open the door. Wake up Shannon.

"What?" she asked in the dark.

"Something's happened; get on your clothes and wake up Tyler."

"What's happened?"

"Get on your clothes and wake up Tyler."

Get to the other room. Wake up Jacinda.

"Jacie," I whispered, rubbing her arm. "Jacie, wake up."

She'd been in bed for months. I didn't know what to tell her.

"What, Mom?"

"Listen ..." Her face small and pale in the half-light. "I think

something's happened to April, and we have to go."

"What happened?"

"I think she might be gone."

"What? What do you mean


Tyler, my fourteen-year-old, stepped into the room. "Mom what is it?"

Shannon appeared behind him. I looked from them to Jacinda and back.

"April's dead," I said, "and we have to go right now."

I put my hand on Jacinda's cheek. In her condition, she could not manage the trip, and I knew I would need all my energy in the next hour. I would have to leave her behind.

"I'm sorry," I told her. As I closed the door to her bedroom, an angling shaft of light caught the bottom of her shaking mouth.

Shannon had a cell phone, and so she called her boyfriend, Richard, who was visiting from Canada, to drive us the six miles to April's apartment. I was in no state of mind to drive.

The three of us — Shannon, Tyler, and I — crept out of my quaint ranch-style house, with its motto on the kitchen wall, like many Mennonite houses have, and into the darkness outside, where Richard would soon ferry us to the low-rent and seedy apartment complex April called home.

It was like I was about to travel back in time — from a world I'd chosen, to the one I'd barely escaped.

Richard arrived quickly and we loaded into his van. The roads were clear, and the traffic lights stayed green all the way, though when I looked at them, I saw nothing but the bloodiest red.

When we turned onto my sister's street, the front windshield lit up with blue f lashing lights, and my sister's apartment — a place I'd been to many times — was covered in a labyrinth of bright yellow caution tape. A man in the parking lot took photographs. Three or four deputies circled a woman wearing a black business suit. Tyler counted fourteen emergency vehicles in all. The scene looked fake, like a crime movie set waiting for the stars to arrive.

Richard parked the van in front of April's apartment building, and as I approached the deputy, he must've recognized something in my face he'd seen before, because he knew immediately, in spite of my head covering, what I was there to do. I didn't waste any words.

"Is it true?" I asked. "Is she dead?"

He frowned. "Yes. I'm afraid she's gone."

My little sister April, who as a child had giggled into her hand when I first showed her a newborn Jacinda and told her, "April, you're an auntie now," was gone. The grief was unexplainable. My body numbed.

"Where is she?" I managed.

"Inside, on the couch."

His words were so frank, as if April were just inside, waiting patiently for me to take her from this place. To protect her like I'd always promised. But I couldn't protect her here, in this world I had left. And now she was gone.

Someone handed me a thick manila envelope, and I turned to find a woman in a black suit standing close. "It's a victim's assistance crime package," she said. "You will look at it later on, and you might not remember much about what's happening right now." She put her hand on my shoulder. "But you need to remember you can call this number written on the top. The detective will answer your questions. Can you remember that?"


"What will you remember?"

"Call you."

"Yes." She sighed and looked to the apartment. "I'm so sorry it ends like this. We're familiar with April and Joe."

"You are?"

"We've been here before. She would call 911 and have him arrested for battery or child abuse, and we'd take him downtown. But then she'd show up the next morning and bail him out."

"I didn't know."

She shook her head. "People rarely do."

"Listen," she continued, "I want you to know that every time we came over here the boys were clean and fed. Every time. We don't always see that. She loved those boys."

I could barely whisper. "Where are they now?"

"Sequestered in the back bedroom with Social Services.

We're about to bring them out."

"Do they know what has happened?"

"Not yet. As their next of kin, you'll have to tell them."

The sheriff 's deputy then described what was happening inside the apartment, and I was left to imagine the rest: police officers form a human wall, shoulder to shoulder, across April's dingy apartment, f lashing blue lights streaming in through dusty blinds. A woman smiles and takes the hands of two boys, ages six and eight, and leads them out of a darkened bedroom, down a short hallway, and past the shielded body of their dead mother. Neither boy knows to look. Neither will ever forget.

From the sidewalk, I saw my nephews emerge carrying their favorite stuffed animals. The boys were so small the deputy had to kneel on the ground to speak to them, and when he pointed at me they waved — two little cherubs blinking into police lights.

"Come here," I called to them.

They bounced from the steps wearing superhero backpacks. I wished I could make their short walk down the sidewalk last an eternity because I knew that when they got to me, and I folded them into my arms, their lives would never be the same again.

Before they could reach me, however, the silence halted short. "They are not allowed to go with her!" Joe had emerged from the far side of the parking lot. He was screaming into the early morning hour.

"This isn't right! They're staying with me! I'm their fath—" "No," I said, surprising even myself at the granite surety of my voice. "You will shut your mouth right now." He stopped, looked to the police.

"Don't look at them; they won't help you," I said. "I'm taking these children home."

I could tell he was wavering. Finally, he stepped back.

I motioned for the boys. "Come now, you two. Get in the van."

They took my hand and hopped into the vehicle as Joe slunk back into the night. Then Richard drove us away from those awful blue f lashing lights.

At home an hour later, in my plain living room on Ponder Street, I told my two nephews their mother was dead. They didn't cry or ask questions. They fondled their toys and muttered "okay" or "you already said that." Their little brains just couldn't process it. So I told them everything and I told it straight. Then when I was finished, we had ice cream and ran through the house playing hide-and-seek, like nothing had happened at all. The autopsy was completed by noon that same day. When the medical examiner called, I stepped outside the house so I could be alone as he took me through the results. It was a horrifying conversation. April's heart had been in bad shape.

I was still on the phone with the examiner when Shannon walked outside and motioned for me to come into the house. I cupped my hand over the receiver.

"What is it?"

"It's Aunt Somara. She's on the other line. " "Okay. Tell her I'll call her right back." "Mom, hang up, it's important."

"I'm talking with the medical examiner."

She went back inside, but then a minute later came right back out again. "Mom," she said firmly, "I think you should hang up the phone and talk to Aunt Somara."


She nodded.

I started to tell the examiner I had to go, but he interrupted me instead.

"Listen Sherry," he said quickly, "I have an urgent call on the other line that I must take. I'll have to call you later, okay?"


I hung up and walked into the house. Shannon was still on the other line with my sister. She looked up at me from the couch.

"Joe's gone," she said.

"He skipped town?"

"No, Mom. He's dead."

"What do you mean?"

Somara had told Shannon that Joe killed himself. Joe's brother, who told Somara, said it was because Joe was afraid of being arrested for April's death. I then realized why the medical examiner had hung up so quickly: there was another body for him to examine.

Ultimately April's death was ruled an accidental overdose, even though her boys had seen Joe slip pills into her drink the night she died. I guess there's no homicide if there's no murderer alive to arrest. April was cremated and put in a vase with dolphins on the side. She loved dolphins.

But dolphins attract sharks, the kind who don't quit eating until the food is gone. And Joe was that kind of animal. He used my sister. She cashed in her stocks and bonds for him; he gambled her tax returns away; he spent her savings until her car was repossessed. And when he was finished — when all the food was gone — there was nothing left of her but a crumbled body lying on a couch.

I have no words to describe the funeral afterward. I remember little of it, save the friends and family who shared the burden of my grief, and one specific realization I had when it was over. That realization was this: for most of my life I had been April. Our paths were identical. New beginnings, new mistakes, self-destructive behavior, depression, violence, rock bottom, and new beginnings again — an endless cycle of failure and regret.

But in the middle of my life something happened, something that pushed me out of the living nightmare I shared with my sister, and into something else. Otherwise it might've been Sherry Gore placed under soft light in a funeral home.

April died. I was saved. I do not know why God chose for it to be that way. But the least I can do is to tell my story. And remember my sister in the telling.


The OC

Carl Harris stood a shade under six feet, and his family called him Butch; he was one of those guys who got a perfect nickname early in life. His jokes, his stories, his reddish beard, and his strawberry blond hair made him a gravitational force at social gatherings. When Carl met someone for the first time, he or she wasn't likely to forget the moment.

My mom was no exception.

They were very young when they met. A quiet and reserved girl, she walked into her parents' living room one afternoon and found Carl sitting on the couch. He told her he'd seen her standing next to a tree the day before and had become so distracted he almost lost control of his car. He'd already decided they should be married. Things like that happened back then.

They were husband and wife not long after. She was seventeen. He was twenty-one.

The wedding was a union of disparate families. Mom came from down-South Georgia Southern Baptist Masons, with an ancestral line traveling back to eighteenth-century Lutherans in Alsace, France, while Dad's father was a judge at Derby Lane Greyhound Racing and founder of the Lealman Fire Department in St. Petersburg, Florida.

But bride and groom had one thing very much in common — they both wished to escape the lives already planned out for them.

After the wedding they moved to Dallas, which was bubbling over with new industry on account of a futuristic technology few people understood — computing. It was 1965, and computers were the size of a shotgun house, difficult to access, and even harder to understand. But Dad, a mathematics whiz who could multiply four-digit numbers in his head, perceived them as the future and went to Dallas to get an education.

He threw himself into the study of computers, working a menial job during the day and pouring over programming books at night. While other young couples were out dancing or catching Hitchcock's latest thriller at the drive-in theater, Dad stayed home, taught himself to code, and planned for a career certain to defy expectations.

His work paid off quickly, and by the mid-1960s, when I was born, Dad was already head of the computing department at Imperial Van Lines moving company. He bought the house we lived in for $5,000 cash, and my first memory is throwing up on its multicolored terrazzo floor. I couldn't have been more than two years old.

My second oldest memory is from the day they introduced me to Wayne, my younger brother. Mom brought him into the house wrapped in a yellow blanket, and his head was as pink as an embarrassed flamingo. I thought he was an ice cream cone and introduced myself with a lick.

Wayne and I were born into the roaring 1970s: women's lib and the Vietnam War and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. I don't remember my parents ever fighting, and Dad's infectious personality made our house a popular venue for cool people looking to smoke cigarettes, drink beer, and talk politics. They threw all sorts of parties, and their friends grooved on the type of house where Johnny Cash blared through the speakers while Wayne and I made blanket forts under the kitchen table.

That's how it was in the Harris household — easy breezy. Which is why I was so confused when my mom came into my room late at night, about three years after Wayne was born, to tell me that she and my father were getting a divorce. She was crying, and I'll never forget how helpless I felt. I had barely begun to enter the world, and just when I got there I found it was already broken.

Why did she want a divorce? I never did learn from her directly. I think maybe she needed something else, something we couldn't provide her. Regardless, Dad moved out of the house soon after. He was crushed.

Wayne and I stayed with our mom, and for a time it seemed we'd found a new normal. But then one afternoon a white van pulled to the front of our house, and two men went inside. They came back out again carrying my brother's clothes and toys in cardboard boxes.

The next morning, Wayne was on a plane to California — Orange County, to be specific, an odd place where everything is about class: low class, no class, high class. Money and status are equal tender, and people spend both liberally. Silicon Valley was ascendant then, and Southern California offered someone with Dad's abilities an enormous amount of opportunity. In Texas, he could be successful; in Orange County, he could be rich.

Dad didn't move there alone; a few months after the divorce, he married a beautiful woman named Chris who turned heads wherever she went. She wore white lip gloss and had long black hair like a Native American princess. Wayne and I liked her from the start.


Excerpted from The Plain Choice by Sherry Gore. Copyright © 2015 Sherry Gore. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Prologue: The Girl on the Curb, 9,
1. April, 15,
2. The OC, 23,
3. Girl Power, 31,
4. A Girl Named Tuesday, 37,
5. Can You Play a Song for My Friend?, 51,
6. A Quick Note, 61,
7. All for Her, 65,
8. The Long Con, 75,
9. Toby, 85,
10. The Deepest Hole, 93,
11. My Name Was Sherry, 103,
12. The Biggest Unadvertised Resort in the World, 113,
13. Goodbye, 123,
14. Beat the Bull, 133,
15. Cracked, 147,
16. Doomsday Tuesday, 155,
17. A Choice of Another Kind, 165,
18. Feeling Ankle, 173,
19. My Place, 181,
Epilogue: Holiday in Pinecraft, 187,

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The Plain Choice: A True Story of Choosing to Live an Amish Life 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
NicoleRivera More than 1 year ago
Wow! That is the best way to describe Sherry's story. The Plain Choice is about a girl-turned-wild-child who reaches rock bottom, looks up, and finds not only God, but a new way of life. Loving, nonjudgmental, and definitely not preaching that Plain is the only way, Sherry shares her story of why she chose God and why she chose Plain for herself and her kids. I could not put this book down. I finished reading it in one day. The Amish lifestyle has intrigued me for years, but The Plain Choice is about so much more. It is about learning how to fill that gap in our hearts, how to face life's challenges with hope, how to be strong and courageous and gentle all at the same time. Yes, Sherry outlines how she went from L.A. DJ to Amish baker/writer, but she also outlines faith is a straight forward, loving, no gimmicks way. The Plain Choice is for anyone who is interested in the Amish culture, but also anyone who feels like they've lost their way and needs to find a "home." Or anyone, like me, who has a home but needs a bit of faith encouragement. A great gift for friends who are intrigued by the Amish style of living. Sherry, wow, what a life! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
wfnren More than 1 year ago
Very inspiring I started following Sherry before I knew she wasn't born Amish, so you can imagine my surprise when I learned she was not. What a shock, I know that there are some Englischer's who switch to Amish but not as many as there are leaving the Amish. Sherry goes into much detail about her previous life, the difference between then and now is amazing. I enjoyed her story very, very much and would highly recommend it. She went from having no faith to having a very strong faith, what an influential story she has. If you, or anyone you know, is down in there life this is a good book to suggest for them to read. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Sherry, I admire you for putting it out here for us to read!
millstreetreader More than 1 year ago
I first encountered Sherry Gore's name when I ran across a reference to the magazine COOKING AND SUCH which at the time she helped publish. I learned that Sherry lived in Pinecraft, Florida, an Amish and Mennonite settlement in Sarasota. Photos of Pinecraft and writings of Sherry's that I found online told me this community was totally different that the Old Order Amish that live in our area of Wisconsin. When I found out that Sherry had authored a cookbook, I put the title on my Christmas list. While I liked the recipes (lots of pie recipes), I was more intrigued by the writings about live in Pinecraft that filled half the book. Ever since, I've followed Sherry on Facebook, listened to podcasts and television appearances she has made. I read her next cookbook SIMPLY DELICIOUS AMISH COOKING (yes I read cookbooks like novels). The more I learned about Sherry, the more I was intrigued. Clearly her Amish community was more liberal - she occasionally drove, she had her photos taken, and she appeared on television. Eventually I learned that Sherry had CHOSEN to become Amish and belonged to a Beachy Amish Mennonite community. Drawing again on what I know about the Amish from our neighbors (Old Order Amish), I knew that they do not seek converts and having someone join is very, very rare. So when Zondervan published her new book which describes her journey from a world of California and Florida sun, rock and roll, parties and bleached hair to a life of simple clothes, head coverings and an old fashioned bike, I wanted to read the inside story. In a nutshell, Sherry shares how that California life was an empty one filled with flawed relationships, dead-end jobs, and even abuse. After the birth of her first two children, Gore knew she had to change her life, and in doing so, she found God. But Sherry felt that she needed more than a church; she needed the community of support found in the early Christian church and her search led her to Pinecraft, a place just minutes from her early days in Florida. This memoir does not go into her life as pie judge, cooking show host, or participant on the series Amish:Out of Order. I sort of wish the book had covered all that, but it focuses on the more important aspects of Gore's life -- why she needed to change, how God touched her heart, guided her struggles, gave her a new beginning, and has given her strength for her most difficult heartache --- watching her eldest daughter suffer from multiple incurable illnesses. Since finishing this book, Gore's daughter Jacinda has died. To people who already have "met" Sherry Gore, this book may answer many of their questions about her life. To readers who know nothing about her, they will be able to concentrate on the story of faith found. Then they can decide whether want to learn more about how she lives her daily life now. I received a copy of this title from BOOKLOOK for my honest review.
ConR More than 1 year ago
I first heard of Sherry Gore on Facebook, as a wonderful cook and author, and as the mom of Jacinda, whose story was offered in Sherry's posts. There was a powerful testimony of God's love, and Sherry's family's love for the Lord, through all I read. So I ordered this book before it was published and looked forward to its' arrival on my doorstep. The least I can possibly say is that Sherry's story and her honesty in telling it blew me out of the water. It is such a contrast to what I expected to read, which I have to say to myself, shame on me. You can rarely read a person's story in their face. You might get hints of the life lived, but you rarely know what the true story is. The most I will say is that THIS BOOK MUST BE READ by anyone who needs to feel an ounce of hope for themselves in their life. Sherry tells the truth, and she tells the TRUTH, and life-giving and life-changing hope is presented here.
Yolan More than 1 year ago
This book is so profound that I can't find the words to express it. I have read it once and will never read it again. Once was enough. It's meaning will stay with me forever.
Baranski1987 More than 1 year ago