Saturday, July 30, 2011

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler

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.

16 comments:

Liz V. said...

I read somewhere that the Amish offer their youth a sabbatical year in the English world before their adult commitment.
Wagler's account sounds touching, not just of Amish but of all youth's efforts to expand their world and find their place.

Lesa said...

Well, according to Wagler, they really don't offer them that sabbatical year. Yes, some of the youth do run around, as he did, but he said the Amish try to keep them at home. They know they'll lose a number of them if they do spend too much time in the English world.

It is a moving story, as you said, for all young people trying to find their place.

Kay said...

Oh, Lesa, I loved your review! I have had this on my wish list since I heard of it. Now I want to read it even more. I've really become addicted to Amish themed books of late. Many of them provide such a welcome respite from the chaos of life as late. I've bookmarked the author's website. Thanks again!

Lesa said...

Ah, Kay. It's a fascinating book, but I warn you. The author had a great deal of chaos in his inner life. You're welcome!

Karen said...

Very nice review, Lesa.

I remember growing up Catholic. Not as difficult as Amish, but still no picnic.

Will add to the TBR pile but, as good as it sounds, it may not make it to the top of the list for awhile.

Lesa said...

I understand, Karen. I continually shuffle books, looking for the one that fits my mood.

Beth Hoffman said...

What a wonderfully written review! You've totally sold me on this book, Lesa, and now I can't wait to read it.

Weekend hugs to you and the furbabies!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. You're such a wonderful writer that it always makes me feel good when you say something like that. Thank you.

Hugs back to you and your "children."

Kris said...

I usually run away from books dealing with religion, but since this deals with the Amish I'm actually interested in it.

Lesa said...

I think a lot of us are interested in this lifestyle, Kris, since we really know so little about it.

Anonymous said...

My family also comes from the Amish and I've always been grateful to my parents that they left. I was a child so at the time so I remember it vividly. It's tough. You have to have somewhere to go to in order to do it and not get lost. This book depicts Amish life much more accurately than most I've seen. Of course it does- it's his own story. And- it reminded me so much of some of my cousins. We met the author at a book signing recently. He was chatty and friendly. I recommend it... and if you can make it to a book signing- you won't regret it!
Your review, Lesa, was good, too.

Lesa said...

Thank you very much for sharing that the book was realistic, and meant something to you because of your family. Thank you!

thestickgatherer said...

I saw this book at my local library the other night on the new releases shelf. I picked it up, read the back cover, and checked it out. I began reading it that night and have been turning the pages since each night. The chapters are short, but the narrative has me intrigued. Wagler's story appeals to me because of is struggle to find his identity. I still have about 10 chapters to read and will probably finish the book this evening. I've already recommended the book to a neighbor and will recommend it to others whom I know to enjoy a good story. (Your review is excellent, by the way.)

Lesa said...

Thank you! Isn't it an intriguing story? Thanks for your note.

Vintage Village Designs by David Furlong said...

I second Ira's claim that the "rumspringa" period in a young Amish person's life is about dating and finding a marriage partner, and not about getting a conscious choice about whether to stay or leave the culture. When you have been taught since the time you can understand the concept that if you are born Amish, God wants us to stay Amish, and if we leave all hope of our salvation will be lost, it is not about conscious choice about whether to stay or leave. It is about learning to submit (especially if you are a woman) and figure out how to fit in. Some of us never quite did.

For more about this, you can visit my blog: http://aboutamish.blogspot.com/ or my book, "Why I Left the Amish."

Saloma Furlong

Saloma Furlong said...

Ooops, I posted this under the wrong profile (my husband's), so here it is under my own.

I second Ira's claim that the "rumspringa" period in a young Amish person's life is about dating and finding a marriage partner, and not about getting a conscious choice about whether to stay or leave the culture. When you have been taught since the time you can understand the concept that if you are born Amish, God wants us to stay Amish, and if we leave all hope of our salvation will be lost, it is not about conscious choice about whether to stay or leave. It is about learning to submit (especially if you are a woman) and figure out how to fit in. Some of us never quite did.

For more about this, you can visit my blog: http://aboutamish.blogspot.com/ or my book, "Why I Left the Amish."

Saloma Furlong