Quick Book Review: “Growing Up Amish” by Ira Wagler

I’ve always been a little curious about the Amish, and I was hoping to find out some interesting details about their way of life.  Also, the way the book is marketed, I was sort of hoping it was going to be like the book “Unorthodox”, where you’re drawn to and sympathize with the protagonist as he breaks away from a fanatical, restrictive, cult-like lifestyle.  Nope. Instead, you get a smattering about Amish life, and a whole lot of wishy-washy nonsense from a bland guy who leaves his community, then comes back, then leaves, then comes back, over and over and over again.  I just wanted to scream, “Make up your mind already, you wimp!”  He talks about the stresses and oppression of Amish life, but he never really goes into what he found so stressful.  He complains about his ignorant neighbors and friends. But when he leaves, he doesn’t go out into the real world. He just goes to another Amish-like community, where the people as just as ignorant!  Invariably, he misses his family, so he goes back. They accept him back into the fold.  Invariably, he leaves again.  It’s ridiculous.  He blathers on and on about the bad things he’s done, like (heaven forbid) buying a car and dumping his nice Amish girlfriend.  For an Amish guy, apparently this is radical, sinful behavior, but it just had me rolling my eyes.  No sex, no drugs, no prostitutes, no robbery. His milquetoast life and faux angst got tedious really fast.  And on a personal note: at one point in the book, he talks about how his horse started to feel unwell.  As the days passed, he realized that this wasn’t just some mild illness.  Yet he resisted calling the veterinarian.  The horse continued to do poorly, but he kept thinking the horse would muddle through and get better on his own.  Days passed, and then weeks. When he goes to the barn one morning and finds that the horse can no longer stand, he finally calls the vet.  Of course, the vet says the horse is too far gone and needs to be euthanized.  He then dramatically describes the euthanasia and the sorrow he felt.  All I could think was, “You fucking idiot! You watch your horse deteriorate to the brink of death, and then you call the vet?!”  Ugh.  I wanted to strangle the guy.  Anyway… if you’re going to write a memoir, you really should have a more compelling life than this. One paragraph in any Lou Reed biography makes for a better story.

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