An affecting memoir from a former Old Order Amish member who abandoned his structured family life for autonomy in the free world.
Wagler, the 9th of 11 children, recalls his family settling in the “somewhat progressive” southwestern Canadian township of Aylmer in the 1960s. They enjoyed running water on the farm, unlike other more conservative Amish collectives bound by what Wagler calls the “inordinate fussing” of horse-and-buggy travel, forbidden electric and telephone service, home-sewn dresses for women and beards for men. His farm years are fondly and unhurriedly conveyed in ponderous reflection as Wagler admits to rarely ever being bored growing up (three-hour church services were the only exception). As his teenage years hit, resistance to the rigid Amish rules simmered while the family uprooted themselves to a burgeoning Amish community in Bloomfield, Iowa. There, Wagler experimented with the worldly temptations of the outward “English society” during his traditional adolescent “Rumspringa” period, but, at 17, the itch of independence became a calling he couldn’t deny or resist. Late one night, armed with a duffel bag and $150, he left home. In engrossing, straightforward prose, the author passionately describes the ensuing five years he spent rationalizing his desire to join the outside world while he grappled with the tidal pull back to familial safety and stability. This created an exasperating cycle of secretive departures and humbling homecomings; even an attempt at love was dashed in favor of fleeing once again. The collective shunning by the Amish church proved a double-edged sword for the author; while sorrowful, it finally brought necessary closure to Wagler’s youthful wanderings, yet taught him how to “leave and not be lost.”
Boldly goes where many Amish chronicles fear to tread: the exodus of members seeking an unencumbered lifestyle.