In 2011, Saloma Miller Furlong’s Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir appeared during the memoir boom that gave agency to invisible, marginalized, or misrepresented groups. Why I Left the Amish was one of the first memoirs written by a former Amish woman that provided unfettered perspectives on the Amish. While many Amish groups today lead a simple life much like many rural Americans in agricultural communities did in the 19th to early 20th centuries, Amish culture is anything but simple as Furlong’s newest memoir shows.
I know the monsters that lurk in the recesses of the mind and in
the dark corners of the heart. I know, because I deal with my own demons
of what was and what might have been. I’ve heard those voices calling in the night.
I understand, because I poked my head through that door and looked around a bit.
And I gotta say, it’s not a terribly scary place. I wasn’t frightened there,
in that room where death is. I understand why people go there.
And I understand why people chose to stay there.
Ira Wagler, Broken Roads, p. 187–188
Growing Up Amish, Ira Wagler’s New York Times bestseller has sold some 185,000 copies since it first appeared in 2011. A writer whose first book makes that list has much to live up to. Some writers never make it past the first book, while others end up wishing they had only written one. And if I am honest, I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned about what I would do if I didn’t like Ira Wagler’s new book. After all, he’s been to my university twice, and over the years, I’ve got to know and appreciate him. The book is not quite what I had expected, and it is truly different in a few key ways from his first publication.