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Ira Wagler's Growing Up Amish Reviewed By Gordon Osmond of Bookpleasures.com
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Gordon Osmond

Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.

He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE

Gordon can also be heard on the Electic Authors Showcase.







 
By Gordon Osmond
Published on May 8, 2011
 

Author:Ira Wagler

Publisher:Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
ISBN:978-1-4143-3936-8

Click Here To Purchase Growing Up Amish: A Memoir

Author:Ira Wagler

Publisher:Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
ISBN:978-1-4143-3936-8

For those whose knowledge of religious sects featuring buggies, strange attire, and a pre-electricity life style is limited to films like Witness and Friendly Persuasion and tourist stops in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Growing Up Amish provides valuable supplementary information about the Amish. Told by an insider who was born into the faith and lived in it with varying degrees of fidelity until the age of 26, this engaging memoir is unlikely to produce a rash of converts.

The strictness, repression, and insularity of the Amish life are vividly portrayed by one who clearly knows what he's talking about. While the author bounces away from and back to home headquarters like a yo-yo, making the Prodigal Son seem a relative homebody, the reader is more curious about the reasons for returning than for leaving. It is relatively late in the story that we learn that the motivation for the repeating departures is less related to a young man's natural instinct to pursue pleasures of various kinds than it is the Church's stultifying lack of intellectual curiosity about the world and its wonders. Similarly, the matching returns to Mother Church seem less to do with the comforts of family and community association than it is a fear of eternal damnation.

One of the tenets of the story that comes across with admirable strength is that geographic relocation is an ineffective solution to problems that are innate, intellectually or spiritually. Just as the author's father, a fascinating mixture of professional accomplishment and emotional limitation, seeks to solve family problems by moving from one place to another, the author does likewise, both proving that indeed, there's no hiding place.

The narrative is a bit unbalanced. The author's impatience and frustrations with the life Amish are described to such an extent that the reader is eventually almost as weary reading about the author's life as the author is living it. When the enlightenment finally occurs, the reader is left with a rather scant account of exactly how it came about and exactly what it means. In view of what has gone before, the final promises of "never again" have a sort of cry wolf quality to them. Earlier promises of descriptions of madness and despair are to a substantial extent unfulfilled.

Toward the end, there is a nice juxtaposition between the "born to" and the "born again" Amish character. Adopting the Amish faith for the first time as an adult is apparently as difficult as becoming a Navy SEAL. When the author takes the opposite odyssey, what started as a strong and revelatory friendship ferments into sad estrangement. Nice.

The author has a unique and largely winning writing style. He uses sentence fragments plentifully and effectively. He is not shy in starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions, and it works. His balancing of narrative and dialogue and his mixture of sentence types within a single paragraph are admirable.

At one point, the author states that he was 14 going on 15. At first, one might say that the author is needlessly stating the obvious sequence. But, given this author's writing skill and perceptiveness, isn't it more likely that he is aping the impatience of really young children who express their desire to achieve maturity sooner than later by telling their ages in terms of the next in line? Could it be that this is the same impatience the author feels in terms of flying the Amish coop as soon as possible?

Despite its "too much of this, too little of that" quality, Growing Up Amish is a well written account of why it's not a great thing to do.


Click Here To Purchase Growing Up Amish: A Memoir