Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: Growing up Amish

Author: Ira Wagler
Title: Growing up Amish
Description (source): One fateful starless night, 17-year-old Ira Wagler got up at 2 AM, left a scribbled note under his pillow, packed all of his earthly belongings into in a little black duffel bag, and walked away from his home in the Amish settlement of Bloomfield, Iowa. Now, in this heartwarming memoir, Ira paints a vivid portrait of Amish life—from his childhood days on the family farm, his Rumspringa rite of passage at age 16, to his ultimate decision to leave the Amish Church for good at age 26. Growing Up Amish is the true story of one man’s quest to discover who he is and where he belongs. Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming yet poignant coming of age story set amidst the backdrop of one of the most enigmatic cultures in America today—the Old Order Amish. (Marketing Copy)
ARC source: Netgalley
Writing style: Wagler does a good job of combining the big picture with single incidents that illustrate his points. The narrative kept my interest throughout, moving along quickly enough that it doesn’t get bogged down.
Audience: The book should appeal to fans of Amish fiction; I think most of them are women, and this book, written as it is from an Amish man’s point of view, gives another side of the picture. It will also appeal to anyone who enjoys reading memoirs. I grew up in Amish country, so I was more interested in this topic than many people would be, but I did not “laugh, cry, and get inspired” as the marketing copy promised.
Major ideas: Wegler keeps to the point throughout, which is his ambivalence about the Amish lifestyle. He describes both the appeal and the downside of being Amish; if there was a drawback here, it would be that he seems at a remove from his younger self—almost as if we are looking down at him rather than inhabiting him. I imagine the young Ira was very confused, so maybe that is a good thing.
Wrap-up: I liked this book. I found myself wondering what choice Ira would ultimately make, and how he would find his place in the world, since he didn’t seem to fit in either the Amish or the “English” culture. 3.5/5*

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