Friday, January 20, 2012

Amish memoir


Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler

What a fine book.

Ira Wagler was born Amish, and Amish he remained, off and on, for years upon years. Even though, from his teen years on, he’d escape to the other world (the one the rest of us live in) to get some breathing room. And then he’d return to his roots.

It’s utterly interesting to hear about his not feeling like he fit in either world completely, and the way his family and his Amish origins tugged him back, even though he knew it wasn’t the right fit for him.

From the start of the book, we know that he’s left the Amish, but I tell you, there were moments in his life when I didn’t know how he could have gotten from there to here. He just seemed so torn.

And that’s the kind of story that, in the hands of a gifted writer (and he is one), is more riveting than one would expect.

And there are some wonderful lines, such as this:
“My father was a man of many gifts and skills. Farming was not one of them.” (p. 43)
OK, so that’s pretty funny (or maybe not so funny, if you were him), especially when farming’s the big thing they were supposed to be doing.

Turns out, his father was a writer, and a good one, who was widely known among the Amish nationwide. So, if this was next statement was true, I’m willing to give the man a pass: “We didn’t realize it then, but our farm was just plain trashy.”  (p. 43) That made me smile. 

But the overall tone of the book is actually somber, since it’s largely about the author's feelings of not-belonging-here-or-there. There's a lot of heart-wrenching stuff here. 

The fellow has a blog, and you can see examples of his fine writing there. 

Also, during his youth, he lived in southern Iowa for a time, so that thrilled me to no end. Small-town Iowa’s a rare thing to find in a book, and it’s almost pathetic how excited I get when I discover it there.

If you’re a fan of memoirs about ordinary lives told beautifully well, or if you like subculture memoirs, this is a very fine example of both of those things. 

2 comments:

Bybee said...

Oh, I have this one on my Nook!

Unruly Reader said...

Bybee -- Excellent -- the Amish eBook! We live in an interesting age...