Growing Up Amish tells the story of Ira Wagler's early years. Wagler was born into an Old Order Amish family but felt pulled into the English world from a young age. Over the course of a decade, Wagler left the church several times, only to return when the guilt of leaving became too much. This book tells the tale of how he came to make his final decision and the events that affected him along the way.
Wagler's story is fascinating. I read the entire thing in one sitting because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. His writing style flows well and is easy to read, and he has definitely mastered the art of putting a cliffhanger sentence at the end of each chapter. Amish customs are explained in a way that makes the story easy to understand when explanations are necessary - without turning the book into a how-to about Amish life.
My only complaint about this book is that it ended too soon. While the point of the book is to show how and why Wagler chose as he did, it ended without discussing the repercussions of his ultimate choice - something that I feel would have made it stronger. Some of Wagler's major life decisions since that time also reflect an indomitable will and creative spirit. Showing how his background affected these choices would have added something special, and this could surely have been done without getting overly personal.
If you have always wanted to know more about the Amish, you will definitely learn more about their trials and their faith from this book. Wagler's struggle is, of course, well laid out, so you will not get the rosy picture presented in many Amish culture books. Because this has such a distinct point of view, it may not make the best first introduction to the Amish faith, but it resonates with anyone who has ever struggled to belong or has more than a passing familiarity with the Amish.
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.