I had gotten away from reading books recently.
There’s no real reason to it. I had started reading a recent book from one of my favorite authors a while back and it wasn’t doing anything for me. Usually the books by this author are awesome and I get through them in a few days. But this one dragged and soon I stopped picking up the Kindle.
And it gained dust.
Wanting something new to read to get me back into books, I read a Kindle Single not too long ago. That got me back into things and I started searching for a book that I hoped wouldn’t lead me down that path of wanting to toss it aside.
I found it in a book called “Growing up Amish” by Ira Wagler.
This was well worth the money.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish. The lifestyle and everything else. When I went to school in Central Pennsylvania, I saw many Amish people in different facets of the world and it always was interesting. There are factions of the Amish in different parts of Upstate New York not too far from me and the interest has always been there.
This book had been on my Amazon wish list since shortly after it was released last summer, so I figured it was a good time to dig in. Especially being it was one of Amazon’s books that they lower the price for a certain amount of time and the Kindle version was $3.99. Score!
I’m glad I did.
In the print version, it’s nearly 300 pages. I got through the book in about four days and constantly wanted to continue.
The story is of Ira Wagler, an Amish man who wrestled with his heritage and his lifestyle. He left the Amish several times, much to the dismay of his family and community. He went back several times, but each time seemed to have a hard time wrestling with his future. Every time it seemed like he was going to continue down the Amish path, he would waver and go off track.
Now for some thoughts:
Let’s realize something — the Amish lifestyle isn’t easy. For most of us out in the “English” world, we probably couldn’t fathom living that lifestyle. Especially with what we know is available to us.
Growing up Amish is a tad different. That’s the lifestyle that you’re born into and you’re used to. That doesn’t mean Amish don’t get the urge or curiosity for something else.
This book provides the reader with a really clear picture about growing up Amish. Wagler is descriptive in many thing things and really allows the reader to jump into his shoes and see what it was like to be Amish, especially in the 60s and 70s. The old-school order of the Amish is really strong in its beliefs and Wagler takes you through what he had to live with. He wrestled with many things, from leaving his family on multiple occasions, to going back to the Amish.
He takes you through the school years, working, his thoughts and his life, including his attempt to fall in love and remain Amish.
Despite knowing the outcome and what he chooses, the book draws you in and makes you wonder about his decisions — and his final decision — and what he’s going to do.
His style of writing is interesting. It’s not something you see often as there’s many things that make you re-read a sentence. But his message is clear and his story is spot on. He gives the reader many details and many thoughts about the Amish and his life in that lifestyle.
And, he’s truthful.
He doesn’t hold back in his writing and I think that’s why this book has so many fine points to it.
This story has the feel of an “underdog” story. One man, in search of happiness … of his place in this world, with himself and with his beliefs, and how he overcame odds to be where he is this day.
Let’s go back to style. Some of his style is a little choppy at times. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but knowing how particular people can be when reading, it’s possible that some might get a little annoyed with the way he writes at times. I didn’t. I enjoyed it. But I wanted to point it out as something others might wonder about.
But this book is a New York Times best seller, so it can’t be all that bad with style!
There’s only one other thing I might put here — the aftermath. Though he does have a piece at the end that tells of his travels and such, I would like to know about his family. They were such a major part of the story, I think it would be fair to put that in there. Even if there was a date on it (As of Date, I am … etc.), it would be nice to know about his relationships with his family. Does he still visit them? Is everyone still alive? Are there other contacts? What ever happened with Sarah? He brushes over some of this in his epilogue about one friend, but outside of that, I was left to wonder.
The reality is, there weren’t many things I would classify as bad in this book.
I really enjoyed this book, as evident by my speed in getting through it.
What really was enjoyable was the “real life” feel to it and that it really gave the reader a chance to see inside the Amish world. There’s been all sorts of books and movies about the Amish, but I always wondered how much of it was real or made to be a tad different for the effect.
This isn’t like that.
Wagler is candid, descriptive and doesn’t seem to hold back. He tells the story about his life and brings you into it.
I didn’t always cheer for Wagler. There were times when I thought his decisions were extremely selfish — and that’s what made this really good. He didn’t try and paint himself as a saint of any sort. He painted himself as he was and is. That, in the end, made me cheer for him and made me want to see him succeed in life.
That’s the makings of a good book — when the main character can be good, bad and then good again.
In the end, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a real story. This is real and about a world that many of us may never really know much about. But Ira Wagler gives us a glimpse into that world in a well-written way.
As you know, I try to be as true to a rating as I can. This one is tough. It’s not a perfect book, by any means, but it is oh so close to being in that category.
Especially because it’s true life.
In the end, because I would recommend it to everyone to give it a read, I’d give it a strong 4.5 stars. There were a few things that would keep it from that 5-star rating, but it was worth every bit I paid for it and it made me want more.
On the web
Wagler has a blog titled “Ira’s Writings.” It’s worth checking out, especially if you’ve read the book and are interested in learning more about him. Some of the people mentioned in the book are shown in older images on the site, so it’s nice to put faces to names.
Fundraiser: I am, again, trying to raise money for the Relay For Life. If you donate to me — even a small amount — you will be entered to win a super-sweet quilted scarf. Click here for all the information!
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