If you’ve spent any amount of time around the reference desk, you’ve probably figured out that I have a great love of mediocre television movies, Hallmark channel in particular. I’m not sure where this fascination came from, probably watching a lot of TV movies with my mom in high school. So this has led to the blog's newest series.
Where Meredith reviews books and the
made for TV movies they have been adapted into.
To kick off this series, I’ve chosen An Uncommon Grace, a 2012 book by Serena B. Miller that was turned into a Hallmark movie last year. An Uncommon Grace is just one entry in the incredibly extensive Amish fiction genre. I have a soft spot for inspirational historical fiction, usually books set in the Western frontier. These are in a related but different subset than Amish fiction, but they both fall under the general umbrella of Inspirational fiction. That being said, I rarely read Amish fiction so, frankly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I didn’t realize until I was finished, but Serena B. Miller was also the author of a trilogy of books set in the Michigan Northwoods during the Civil War that I liked quite a bit.
Levi Troyer lives with his family, members of the Schwartzentruber Amish, in Ohio. Tragedy strikes when an armed intruder storms into his home, an encounter that leaves his stepfather dead and his mother gravely injured. The incident greatly shakes Levi and causes him to question his commitment to the incredibly strict church. Also forcing him to rethink his life is Grace Connor, an Englischer woman and army nurse who helped save his mother on that terrible day. Their paths continue to cross while Levi’s mother recovers and despite their best efforts, they can’t help but be drawn to each other.
An Uncommon Grace, produced under Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries banner is an impressively faithful adaptation of Miller’s book. Personally, I find that the Movies & Mysteries channel movies tend to be slightly higher quality than those on regular Hallmark these days, especially in the time since shifting their popular Signed, Sealed, Delivered film series to Movies & Mysteries. The movie stars Jes Macallan, an actress who is also currently enjoying a guest starring role on the CW series Legends of Tomorrow and is someone I can believe as having been in the military. I think that goes a long way toward making An Uncommon Grace extremely watchable.
Left on the Cutting Room Floor
Throughout the book, Levi and Grace get into a few friendly arguments about faith, family, and society. These intellectual debates end up challenging each other’s point of view and it explains how these two incredibly different people end up falling in love. The movie lacks most of these exchanges which ends up being a detriment to their relationship.
Adapted for the Silver Screen
Apparently, Hallmark found the end of Miller’s book a little too dark. In the book, Levi is shunned by the members of his church when the bishop’s daughter, Zillah, makes an accusation that Levi has gotten her pregnant out of wedlock. This becomes the final straw for Levi who then makes the decision to leave the Amish church completely. The movie wraps things up more neatly, Zillah admits her (less serious) lie and Levi and his family choose to attend the less strict Old Order Amish church together.
This is one of those perfect lazy Sunday afternoon movies that is nice to watch without being completely mind numbing. The actors are all capable and the story is entertaining; it’s more or less exactly what one expects from watching an above average Hallmark movie. I didn’t think I’d get much out of reading the book, but I was absolutely wrong. Miller fleshed out the relationship between Levi and Grace and there was at least one romantic sequence (Levi rescues Grace from a flooded river) that was absent from the movie. I also learned some things about the Schwartzentruber Amish; that they exist, for example. Having grown up in Pennsylvania and living in Ohio for the last five, I was kind of shocked I have never at least heard about them. (For more info, click here.) So I felt like I came away from this book with more knowledge than before.
Keep an eye out for more book to movie posts in Small Screen Reads here on Mentor's Reader.