So, it's religion day here. If you don't want to read about the problems in the Catholic Church, you can read about Ira Wagler's memoir, Growing Up Amish. It's packed with details about Amish life, but, ultimately, it's the story of a young person searching for answers, and faith.
Ira Wagler grew up in an Amish home, the ninth of eleven children. His father, David, was known worldwide in the Amish community, one of the few with a degree, and a passion for writing that he shared in a magazine he launched, Family Life. But, while he poured his energy into his writing, some of his sons couldn't live the Amish lifestyle, with no cars, no electricity, no telephones. And, some Amish communities were stricter than others. Wagler commented, "Even among the Amish, other Amish seem odd."
Wagler tells his story, and, briefly, that of his brothers and sisters. An older sister left home, and became a Mennonite. When Ira was ten, he says of his mother's second son, "Jesse was the first of her sons to pack a bag and simply walk away into the night. He would not be the last." Ira's youngest brother, Nathan, walked away in broad daylight, with his mother crying behind him. That's why so many of the Amish young people leave during the night, so as not to listen to their mothers' cries. Ira walked away from the Amish life five times, the last time for good. And, four times he came back, afraid to leave the life he knew, while he feared eternal damnation if he left. He always felt a tug-of-war between the Amish world and the English world, the outside world.
Novels of Amish life are popular because the outside world wonders about the people and their lifestyle. Now, Ira Wagler reveals what it was like for a restless young man to grow up in that culture, a strict environment filled with complex rules and restrictions. It wasn't the place for a softhearted, sensitive soul, a young man who craved freedom. He provides the details readers crave about life, the family life, the church, the school, the community. But, he also tells the sad story of a young man who tried to succeed in that world, but had to walk away for the sake of his sanity.
Once you've read Ira Wagler's account, that book cover becomes a more powerful image. I'm sure Wagler meant his memoir to show that he succeeded. He found answers, faith, and comfort in life. At the same time, that's still a lonesome image, the Amish young man walking away. And, Growing Up Amish is still a sad, and lonely, story.
Ira Wagler's website is www.irawagler.com
Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler. Tyndale House. ©2011. ISBN 9781414339368 (paperback), 288p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I picked up an ARC in the reference room at our Main Library.
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