The NY Times bestselling author of the memoir Growing Up Amish reflects on the difficulties of severing ties with his past, and the writing of a follow-up memoir
Few writers have had the opportunity New York Times bestselling author Ira Wagler claimed: telling his story of flight from the Old Order Amish home he knew in Indiana. It was an excruciating choice.
In the last decade, similar stories have been glorified in an avalanche of romance novels. A random search will turn up a wide selection. The Bridesmaid, by Beverly Lewis. Lydia’s Charm, by Wanda E. Brunstetter. The Amish Bride, by Mindy Starn Clark.
The titles evoke a simpler world, a place where a Hallmark Christmas movie could be set. The stories allow readers to imagine what it must be like to live in a tight-knit community that embraces you with its timeless values.
But the choice to leave that community wasn’t quite so romantic for Wagler. In part, this is shown in his memoir as he leaves home, struggles to survive, returns home, and then leaves again. Rinse and repeat.
Now eight years after the book’s publication, Wagler opens up in our podcast, talking about how difficult that choice was. In fact, he admits that if he had the choice to redo his past, he’s not sure what he’d do.
It’s been a difficult journey. After his marriage exploded, he began writing a blog in which he began exploring the pain. That blog turned into the memoir. Within a year, that blog will once again spit out a second memoir, Broken Roads.
Of course, perhaps “spit” isn’t quite the descriptor for the process of writing this second memoir. As Wagler notes, the second book didn’t come easily. He was offered the opportunity five years ago, but wasn’t ready. He needed to go back to the blog, he told us, to figure out what he had to say.
But eventually, he did.
Wagler’s struggle to find authenticity — as he puts it, to “walk free”— is the most moving aspect of this interview. His decision to forgive rather than turn to bitterness, he told us, is what made it possible for him to write his first memoir.
So pour a cup of java, pull up a chair, and let Ira’s words move you as much as they moved us.