“Amish Mafia” book review: Amish Confidential

See, unlike the Discovery Channel, who essentially unpersoned Amish Mafia as if it never ever existed… I’m still finding a way to do reviews of the show.  Well, at least one more review, barring any sort of “Merlin and Mary Take a Road Trip” spinoff, or if Paul and the horde of unwashed Kentucky Amish ever make their way to Lancaster County…

No, I’m talking about Amish Mafia star Lebanon Levi’s new book, “Amish Confidential” (with Ellis Henican, Gallery Books, 2015).  This book is designed to pull back the curtain on what goes on in Amish communities – the different rules the Amish participate in to operate their lives; their relationships with “English” outsiders, crimes perpetrated on (and sometimes by) the Amish, etc.  And through it all, we get the observations of Lebanon Levi about growing up in the Amish community, the life he led in that community, and his brush with actress Kelly McGillis when she lived with the Amish during the filming of the movie Witness.

What we have here are two different books – the first half of the book talks about Levi’s life and upbringing; the second half of the book recaps various Amish-related news stories – the Sam Mullet hate crime in Bergholz, Ohio, where Mullet and his followers shearing the beards of several Amish married men; the crime still seems like an odd choice for a “hate crime” designation, but to read the story you would eventually understand that shearing a married Amish man’s beard is anathema to the Amish faith.

And we get some other recaps of Amish crimes and issues; there are chapters in the book that talk about Amish incest and beastiality; references to puppy mills and a drug connection with a Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang; and the horrifying stories of Amish children getting kidnapped – or, in the tragic story of Nickel Mines – getting murdered in a schoolhouse.  The stories are rehashed and reviewed, but during these chapters it’s almost as if Lebanon Levi has stepped away from the manuscript and Ellis Henican has stepped in to finish the chapters.

The book talks about several things that were never mentioned in the Amish Mafia show, including the fact that Amish do pay taxes (with the exception of Social Security taxes), and that Amish try to balance their personal lives with the Amish appearance that brings in the tourism dollar.

But there’s one truly glaring omission from this book.  One omission that I thought would cover half of the book’s 270+ pages.

And no, I’m not talking about some sloppy editing (for example, the book lists the Nickel Mines shooting as taking place in both 2006 and 2007).

I’m talking about the few scant pages devoted to the Amish Mafia television series itself!

Outside of some references to the reaction from Amish leaders about the show, and the whole “Governor Tom Corbett wants to shut our show down, so we need to vote him out of office” screed at the end of the book (funny thing, though – Governor Tom Corbett carried Lancaster County, Pa. in the vote – but he lost the election – but the Amish Mafia show got cancelled anyway), there is very little that talks about the controversial show.

Heck, Esther doesn’t even get mentioned until the final pages, and even that is a reference to someone asking about why Levi didn’t stay with Esther during Season 3 of the series.  No mention of her getting physically beaten and assaulted by her live-in boyfriend I’Mir Williams.  No mention of all the explosions and gang violence between the Amish and Mennonites.  No mention of Caleb using explosive cow farts to destroy an illegal still in Indiana.  And yes, I just wrote “explosive cow farts” in a blog post.  And trust me, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done this.

Did I enjoy reading the book?  Yes I did.  But do I think the book still needs a few additional chapters?  Of course I do.  This book – like the four-year run of the series – is both confusing and unfinished.  The book is promoted as Lebanon Levi writing a tell-all book, but it’s a tell-all book about everything EXCEPT the stuff we want to know.

Oh well… maybe I’ll just wait for the “Amish Mafia” board game to come out.  I can see it now.  You can play as one of several different tokens – an Amish horse and buggy, Lebanon Levi’s Cadillac, Duivel Doug’s black-bumper Buick, or Caleb’s horse-tour wagon.  You travel along the game board, and if you land on a certain square, you can draw cards with messages like:

  • Jolin discovers your pigeon-courier-drug farm.  Lose a turn.
  • You go to Florida with Susanna the Charity Church Girl.  Roll the dice.  If you roll a 6, you advance six spaces.  If you roll any other number, you lose your turn because you discover that she has a tattoo.
  • Go directly to the silo, wait two turns and roll again.  If you roll a six, you can escape the silo.  Any other number, stay in the silo and STOP TALKING BACK!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

So if this is the last thing we see from the Amish Mafia television show, it’s like the entire series, in retrospect.  We’re promised so much, we’re teased with what we might discover, and in the end …

… we’re left feeling cheated.