May 29, 2020

Tuesday Morning…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:33 pm


You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back
home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of
fame, back home to exile,…away from all the strife and conflict of the
world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for…

—Thomas Wolfe

The day came, it trickled in like most days do. The breaking silent dawn, the rising sun. On this day, there were blue skies with rafts of drifting clouds. It was a rare moment. I had seen only one such time before, that came anywhere close to this. It was Tuesday. May 12th, the day Broken Roads got released.

It had been a long time coming. I don’t know what the average time is between first and second books. A year or two, probably, unless the second one gets forced out before. It took me nine years. A good long wait, that is, for a new dawn to come. It didn’t really bother me much, that it took so long. I told myself. If it doesn’t come, it doesn’t come. I figured it would. Eventually. And eventually, it did. The days plodded along, the weeks crawled by. And the release date crept up, closer and closer. Until the big day came. There had been only one day approaching anything like this, ever before, in all my life. That was when Growing Up Amish got released on June 28, 2011. A Tuesday, nine years ago. I don’t know. Maybe Tuesday is a special day to release a book. Seems like it was for me.

I looked back and thought about things a good bit. How it all happened last time. How things went, as the day approached. The second journey would be different than the first. But still. You do what has worked in the past when you can. I thought back to nine years ago and how it was. How I went to see my friend, Sam the Counselor. Just to talk through things, just to keep my head straight. This time, I wasn’t sure any of that was necessary. Until the last full week was winding down, then it came to me. Go see Sam. You can’t go wrong. So I called to see if an appointment might be available. I was not all that sure a slot could open on such short notice, but they made one for me. Monday morning. I could see Sam then. I’ll be there, I promised.

Monday morning. I slept in a bit, then got up. Nice day, a little cloudy. I stuffed a couple of copies of Broken Roads into my messenger bag, and we were off. Amish Black II bucketed along over the backroads. Through Bridgeport, and on south. Down, down, through Willow Street, then on over to Conestoga. My appointment was at 9:30. I usually grab the opening slot at 8;00 or so, but beggars can’t be choosers, not when they call in as late as I had. Norma smiled and welcomed me. I sat in one of the spindled chairs in the waiting area. A few minutes after 9:30, Sam came thumping down the stairs. He smiled and greeted me. We didn’t shake hands, as we usually do. Covid. View every person with suspicion. I swear, that virus is going to make us all insane.

Sam and I settled in, our chairs naturally spaced more than six feet apart. I came, I told him, because you are safe. You always were. I’m here because my book is happening tomorrow. I held out a copy of Broken Roads. This book is releasing tomorrow. I’m ready, I think. Still, it goes better when I run things past you. I signed the book to him and Cathie, his wife. Here, I said. A gift. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.

And we sat there and chatted, me and Sam. I told him. I remember years back, right when my marriage blew up, a year or so in. I was coming to see you regularly, every couple of weeks or so. You told me that maybe someday I’ll write about what was going on right then. You said it would be quite a story. I scoffed at the idea. Nah. I’ll never get to a place like that. And then I told Sam. I need to tell you, I did get to that place. You were right. I wrote the things you told me I might write one day. That stuff is all in this book. I remember how I scoffed at you. You were right. And we talked a bit about life in general in these strange “pandemic” times. Life has changed, and there ain’t a thing you can do about it. It’s a crazy world out there.

But you don’t have to be afraid, I said to Sam. You can choose not to walk in fear. And we talked about what that might look like. I’m sure it’s different for different people. We wandered far out into other fields as well, as we always do. And soon we had talked well past an hour. I stood, then, and took my leave. Sam thanked me again for the book. He’d let me know what he thought, he promised.

That day passed uneventfully, and night came. And it was heavy on my mind as I grappled for sleep that night. The book. Tomorrow the book would be released to the world. I couldn’t stop it now if I wanted to. It felt more like, what is done is done. Let the heralds proclaim with trumpet fanfare from the rooftops. Here is Ira’s new book. Broken Roads. Stop and check it out. I tossed and turned and pitched about. Then drifted off to sleep. And the dreams came sliding in, then. Broken dreams about a broken past.

I woke up early. Tossed about a bit, then got up. This was the day. It would have been so different in a sane and normal world. There would have been a book signing that evening, over at Plain and Fancy. And probably a little writeup in the paper. Maybe. The paper isn’t what it was last time, back in 2011. Still. It would have been good, to have some notice locally. I’m not sure if that’s going to get done.

I posted early on social media that morning. Today is the day I’ve been waiting for. My book. I posted a link to Amazon and asked my friends to repost. All through that day, I saw posts of my book. And then the messages started coming. Hey. My book got here. Shipped from Amazon.

I was really impressed with how precisely that had to be timed. Somewhere down the chain of responsibility, it was someone’s job to make sure my book got shipped so it would be delivered on the date of actual release. That didn’t happen across the board, I know. But it happened a good bit. I was impressed. And people started posting after they had read it. The feedback was mostly positive. Some of the early reviews on Amazon have been brutal. I glanced at them and didn’t think of them much. And I’ll mention it right here. I could sure use some reviews on Amazon. If you haven’t done it, I’d appreciate if you would. No obligation, of course.

I got a few messages that day from the publishing team. The people I worked with. They congratulated me. It’s a big deal, to get a book published. And it felt good that these people recognized that. And I’ve thought about it a good bit. Of all the “art” you can create, writing is the easiest medium in which to get known. I think it is. It’s almost impossible in music. And painting, well, wait until after you’re dead, then maybe your art’s worth real money. Only a writer can hole up in a “flat,” as the British would call it, and write in the evenings while working full time. A writer has a better shot at actually getting published and heard. Well. Mostly, it’s that way. There’s always exceptions, of course.

It’s been about two weeks, now. A few days more than that. I wasn’t sure how involved the Hachette people would get with the marketing. So far, so good. They got some little outside PR firm lining up some good interviews. I’ve done half a dozen or so. They’ve been fun. Took me back to the old Growing Up Amish days, it did. Take a break at work. Half an hour here, fifteen minutes there. I enjoy the talking, mostly. You let the host lead, go where he or she nudges you.

It looks like one lonely book signing event might still be held. Well, there may be others. But just one for now. This summer, in mid-July, there will be an ex-Amish reunion in Old Bloomfield. Saturday and Sunday, the 18th and 19th. Anyone who was ever Amish in Bloomfield is invited. That was the week of the Davis County Fair. I had planned to rent a booth at the Fair on Friday, July 17th. And then Covid interrupted, of course. The Fair got canceled. It is what it is. Right now, I’m looking at renting the Get-ToGather Room on the north side of the square on Friday, July 17th, from maybe 12:30 to 4:00. Or something like that. Bring your book, or buy one there. I’m planning on it. If anything changes, I’ll note that in my next blog.

A few words about the virus. Not much. It does little good to rant. There will be plenty of time later to dissect what really happened. I am currently most disappointed at pastors who obstinately refuse to reopen their churches. They stand with outstretched arms, not to shepherd their flocks, and not to lead. But to deny entry to the church. Can’t let the church gather without the pastor. That would be disaster. It’s mind-boggling. I never dreamed I’d see the day. Those pastors should start their own little support group. Pastors on a Power Trip. Open your freakin’ churches. Your people are ready to explode from the tension.

Back to a more pleasant present. My book got officially released on Tuesday, May 12th. That’s a big deal for me. I did a few interviews and got a few more coming up. And just this week, I got a real good write-up in two online publications. Both were written interviews. The first was in The Christian Post. The second was my good friend Erik Wesner’s blog, Amish America.

And through it all, the struggle continues for some semblance of the old traditions. There is Covid, there’s my book release, there are riots in the streets, and there is the terrifying noise you hear when the world is crumpling to ashes on every side. Through the darkness comes a bright little sliver of light. My nephew, Clifford Wagler, is getting married. He’s the youngest son of my brother and his wife, Stephen and Wilma Wagler. Clifford was always a bit shy until he met this one particular, lovely girl. Esther King, that’s her name. The two of them have been inseparable for over a year, now. Their wedding is planned for late June. Less than a month.

Clifford and Esther

A few weeks ago, Clifford and Esther brought me supper one Sunday night. It was nice, that they paid a bit of attention to the crotchety old uncle. Esther had cooked up a delicious meal, and afterward, we went for a ride in Amish Black II. Life rolls on through everything. I mean, so far, it has. It is beautiful to see a young couple walking forward with all the hope and faith and optimism that young couples have. Congratulations from the extended family, Clifford and Esther. We wish you every blessing.

May 1, 2020

Bootleg Gospel…

Category: News — Ira @ 5:33 pm


Did they not, as we, cry out at night, along
deserted roads into demented winds?

— Thomas Wolfe

Well, that went south fast. There’s never a shortage of tyrants, all ready to step in and inflict their will on others by force. At this point, in early May, in the year of our Lord, 2020, a choking dystopian fog has settled on the land. It’s impossible to know or to grasp the harsh winter that is now our spring. The aftermath of this event, whatever you think of it, will affect at least all those who were old enough to remember. The world has changed, more than any of us could hope to grasp. It’s a frightening place of desolation and fear. Not that it has to be. But it is, I think, for a lot of people.

I understand, if you’re afraid. Can’t say I haven’t felt a few shivers of fear myself, slicing through whatever measure of calmness I had managed to grasp, however tentatively. Fear chases everything else out, if you let it. I try not to. You fight it because there is no choice. Not if you want to survive. For the first time in modern history, a civilization has deliberately triggered its own demise. Chopped off its own head. That’s what is happening in the West. That’s what is happening here in Pennsylvania.

It was late March when I realized that the world had changed way more than I had ever figured it could or would. Our governor Tom Wolf had already shut the state down, pretty much. It didn’t affect me all that much, except I was irritated that all restaurants had closed, due to our pipsqueak tyrant’s dictates. A vile little man, Wolf is. Anyway, it was an ordinary weekday morning. I fueled Amish Black II at Sheetz on my way to work. Then I walked inside to grab my cup of coffee, just like I’ve done every morning for the past twenty years. I was unprepared for what greeted me inside.

There was no coffee. The line of large, gleaming urns had been removed, the skeletons of the brewing machines sat on the counter all forlorn. A string of yellow tape stretched taut across the area where I got my coffee every morning. A little sign hung there. Due to the Corona virus, we are no longer selling self-serve coffee. Half in shock, I stood there for a few seconds. What fresh horror was this? No coffee at Sheetz. I turned and walked out the door. I haven’t been back for anything except gas since. McDonald’s is a quarter mile down the road from Sheetz, and these days, the drive-through line is fast and short. I’m a regular there, every morning, now. A large black coffee, please. I try to give exact change. $1.06. I’m irritated at Sheetz for caving to the deliberate and destructive hysteria. Maybe I’ll go back if they ever start selling coffee again from large urns that you can help yourself to. And maybe I won’t.

You could feel the fear around you early on. The vile media spewed a continuous stream of panic and poison every day. I never watched, and only occasionally overheard. At work, we settled into a new routine. Building supply businesses somehow escaped the pipsqueak’s ire. We were open. My office coworkers, Mark and Rosita, go in and open up. I wander in around nine. By 2:30, they are both gone. I stay and close at five. For now, that seems to work well. The market balancing itself. One day, a regular schedule will return. I mean, that’s what we’re planning will happen. Not all plans always work out, of course.

The tyrants are never satisfied after they get a taste of power. Like a vampire tasting blood for the first time. The elixir clouds the head and fogs the mind. For reasons presumably known to himself, Wolf allowed the big box stores to stay open, but shut down most small businesses in PA. Like I said. The man’s policies are destructively suicidal. I’m mostly an introvert, anyway, so it didn’t bother me or my schedule all that much in the beginning. Still. You miss things, when they get taken from you. One of the things I missed most was very simple. Assembling for church. There was no church, because the church obediently bowed to the state at the first whiff of danger.

Trying to keep track of the chain of events, here. I might get a little out of order. Don’t matter, I guess. Easter came rolling in. The most holy of days for Christians. No church, no gathering, not in the vast majority of places. The threats came raining down as the state seemed to take a perverse joy in reminding Christians that they were not allowed to gather. I had never seen such a thing before in my life, and hope to never see such a thing again. It was startling and abrupt, to absorb.

But not everyone listened. The day before Easter, I got a text from a close friend. He was having a gathering the next evening, Easter evening. Grilled brisket. The group he invited would be small, but still too big to be legal. Come around four, and we’ll feed you. And almost an afterthought, a P.S. We will be having communion after we eat. I would have gone anyway. But that communion thing sealed the deal for me. I’ll be there, I texted back.

And I was. I greeted my friends. And we just sat around and talked and then the food was ready and we ate and feasted with much mirth. It was a good evening. We were not gathered in fear, but in fellowship and love. There was a fire outside after we ate, and then people made moves to leave before too late. At some point in there, my friend asked. “Do we want to have communion?” Yes, I said. Yes. Let’s have communion. And we all gathered inside around the kitchen table. The host took his Bible and found the passage where Jesus served the bread and wine. We used what we had. The bread was some kind of cake bar, the wine was real enough. Except for me. I was served a little cup with a mixture of exotic juices. And we ate our cake and drank our wine and juice in solemn remembrance of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. I thanked my hosts, then, and walked out to my Jeep and headed for home.

Scold all you want at my recklessness, it really doesn’t matter. And it wasn’t recklessness, anyway. It was calculated risk. Something about the massive Covid hysteria just didn’t add up, early on, for me. I saw it was serious, and it could kill. What shocked me was when they shut down everything, closed down businesses. You can’t just do such a thing by decree. Only the market should decide when to shut down. People can do their own figuring and take their own risks. Who are these government officials who play god with our lives? What’s their agenda? From the first second of the crisis, I saw the abuse of power. If you ask anyone from an anabaptist background, other than the serious leftists who would make Menno Simons roll over in his grave, you ask them and they’ll tell you. Don’t trust the state. We got long, long ancestral memories, my people do. We know BS when we see it. We call BS when we see it. Governor Wolf, sir, stop oppressing the citizens of the commonwealth. Stop playing god. People are hurting and people are desperate. Very soon, they will be hungry and depressed. A dark wind blows.

It was shortly after Easter when I heard from the editor of The Budget. The Amish weekly newsletter from Ohio that my father wrote for since before he was married, I’m pretty sure. That venerable old newspaper had rejected advertising for my first book, Growing Up Amish. They did not want to offend my father or his readers. I understood and never fussed. This time, I figured it might be different. This time, the book explicitly honors my father. (I think the first one did, too, but I understand if others see that differently.) Some months ago, I mailed a hard copy to the editor of The Budget. I even plotted with my good friend, John Schmid, the folk singer from Ohio that Dad loved to listen to in his last years. I figured John might be able to poke around a bit and put in a good word for me. Ira is not a bad man. Here. Read. It’s honorable stuff. I thought John might have an edge on things. I hoped so, anyway. A few quarter-page ads in The Budget would proclaim my book to the Amish world, if I could nurse things along right.

Well. Right after Easter, here came a text from John. “It’s not looking good, for The Budget.” And sure enough, here came a message from the editor. The official verdict. They would not advertise Broken Roads, because a portion of their readership might be offended by some of my wording. Drat, I thought. Foiled again. Here we’re being deliberately throttled by the state’s response to the virus. And now, The Budget won’t advertise my book. It’s enough to make a man weary and discouraged.

But not for long. I thought about it. So my new book is banned by The Budget. Nothing has changed. I’m right where I’ve always been. I won’t criticize the decision, because it’s not my newspaper and not my business. And I know that the judgment of the plain community can run wide and deep. But I have to say, with all the other racket that’s going on in the world right now, that this is a bit of noise and stress I’d rather do without.

It is what it is, I reckon. Just keep walking. No virus hysteria or Budget boycott will stop my book for long, not if I can help it.

The days of pandemic plod along, slowly, so slowly. All around the world, things were going on. The media ran insane. WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! The dystopian fog settled, dense and frightening. A hospital ship arrived in NY City, to help with the overflow. And a tent hospital was set up in Central Park, by Franklin Graham’s people. Both setups are gone now, and they treated almost no one. Lord, it’s a mystery, indeed it is. I mean, is that uncouth to mention? At that time, though, we didn’t know. We believed what “science” was telling us. Or at least we were told what to believe and how to think.

A few Sundays back, I connected to a small inhouse church service. The bootleg gospel, I guess you could call it. I felt a small connection to my anabaptist roots that morning. Sneaking to an illegal private service in a home. I remembered what my cousin, Elmo Stoll, said to me when I stopped in to visit his little commune in Tennessee, back in the early 1990s. We were walking along some backwoods trail from one dwelling to another, and Elmo turned to me, his eyes gleaming with his vision. “I always imagine our anabaptist forefathers sneaking along a trail like this, hiding from persecution,” he told me. I could only smile and nod. Inside, I was calculating that the man must have lost his mind. Why would anyone speak of persecution with anything other than horror and revulsion?

That bootleg church service. I went that morning. It was moving and uplifting to me. Most of us sat around a large table. We sang songs, and then there was a short devotional, then more singing and discussion. And then a great meal was served, a feast. I drank black coffee and visited. Against my weak protests, the housewife insisted I take some food with me when I left. I got back home, refreshed, emotionally and spiritually. The bootleg gospel. The word of the Lord will always flow free.

At this point, I realized, along with a lot of other people, that we were in for a long haul. Nothing was coming “back to normal” anytime soon. Maybe normal as we had known it would never return. The day after the bootleg church, there was an event in Harrisburg that I went to. A protest. It was a desperate and angry crowd that gathered to demand an end to the shutdown of small and private businesses. In Harrisburg at noon. That’s when it was planned. I wanted to go. I didn’t want to drive. So, before heading to the office, I posted on Facebook. I need a ride to the protest. Anyone out there? When I fired up my computer at work, a couple of messages were waiting on me, offering a ride.

One was from Arlene, my ex-sister-in-law. Ellen’s older sister, over in the Lebanon area. She made an attractive offer. If I drove over to their house, her husband, LeRoy, would take us to the protest and drop us off. He didn’t want to stay, but he would return whenever we called and pick us up. I messaged Arlene back, and we chatted for a bit. I’m on my way, I told her. And me and my Jeep headed west and north.

I had not been to the little farm owned by LeRoy and Arlene Longenecker for a lot of years. Last time I was there, I think Ellen was with me. So, it’s been a while. A host of old memories nudged at me as I approached their home. It looked about the same when I got there. I walked up and knocked. LeRoy and Arlene emerged from their house, all ready to go. I grabbed my water bottle and the cardboard sign I had fashioned earlier. In stark, black letters, the words: WOLF IS OUR VIRUS. We boarded the white SUV and LeRoy soon had us on the interstate, zooming toward Harrisburg.

Traffic was sparse, and we got to the city in good time. A few blocks from the capital building, we got dropped off. The crowd was small but growing when we walked up. It was a halfway decent day, there were clouds, and the sun shone bright. More people came, and suddenly the place was packed out on both sides of the street. There were loudspeakers and shouts and cheers and jeers and loud horns honking and the waving of signs. I stood right out on the edge of the pavement and held my sign high. There were a few speeches, then, by politicians claiming to be on our side. When I hear a politician speak, at any level, it goes right in one ear and out the other.

Ira Wolf protest

By midafternoon, Arlene and I were walking out of the area a few blocks to a place where we could get picked up. LeRoy zipped right in and we were off. And that was the end of that little adventure. I’ve been scolded about how it was stupid to go stand around with so many other people. Maybe it was. It’s a risk that people take when they are desperate and hungry, when their jobs are just yanked right under out of them for no discernible reason, other than some unseen, perceived threat. A threat that is certainly real, but has failed to materialize as the monster we were warned it was. I think back to that hospital tent and that hospital ship in New York City that were neither needed nor used. So, even though I can still go to work, I will stand with the people who are being enslaved, I stand with them. There is no other option.

Mr. governor Wolf, you are always groomed, always trimmed and spotless. I’m looking like Grizzly Adams, here. Because the guy who cuts my hair will be heavily fined if he cuts my hair. Maybe he’ll be caged. Someone is cutting your hair, Mr. Wolf. Why are you allowed to flaunt the chains of the law you inflict on all of us? It’s not about health, and it’s not about safety. It’s about control and enslavement. Free the market. Just free the market. Be warned, sir. Peasants with pitchforks are quietly gathering in the shadows of the castle walls. The tar is bubbling in big pots, the chickens are being slaughtered for their feathers.

How are the Amish dealing with the madness? In some remote places, they probably never really knew much what was going on. I do know that most communities were warned. And that the Amish took the threat seriously. Most of the schools were shut down, at least around where I am. I can’t speak to every place. And they stayed home on Sundays, too, the Amish did. First time church had been canceled like that since the Spanish flu a hundred years ago. The cancellations came smack dab at the time for Ordnungs Church. Over that Easter Sunday when I went sneaking around, the Amish stayed home.

But not for much longer. By the following Sunday, the Amish had counseled among themselves. From what they had seen, well, they see it like I see it. The virus is real, and it can be deadly. But it’s not worth wrecking the economy over. I mean, it has already been massively damaged, and this has quietly outraged the Amish. You can’t tell an Amish person not to work. Or you better have some real good reason if you do tell him that. The Amish had listened to all the real good reasons. And now, they came up with some logic of their own.

They would have church for the districts as originally would have been scheduled. There were three basic rules. If you feel even slightly sick, or cough, or sneeze, don’t come. There would be no handshaking and there would be no noon meal. Those two traditions are pretty important to the culture. It made sense, for the first time or two, to take extra precautions. And that’s how you break back in slowly, I think. The Amish will always come up with a practical blueprint of action. They’ll keep close watch. Cut back on church if they get sick. But keep pressing on if things stay decently balanced. They won’t wait on an OK from any government agency. They will make the choices as they best can. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way the market works. Both secular and religious.

I’ve said it before, about the Amish. I’ll say it again, with some pride. These are my people.

Winding down, then. The book. My world had been pretty silent. No communication at all with my Hachette people since the virus came rolling along. I felt like they might update me. Nope. Nothing. Not a word. So, a few weeks ago, I reached out to them all. Hey. What’s happening with Broken Roads? Are we on schedule? I’m mostly concerned that people will get their hard copies when they order them. Will that be possible? Should the book’s release be backed up?

I didn’t want to back it up. I had chatted via email with Chip, my agent. He wanted to know what I was thinking. Do I want to move the release date up, or back it off? Anything like that? And I thought about it and told him. Nah. Let’s keep the original date. May 12th. I’d consider backing it off if the hard copies can’t be delivered on time as scheduled. That would be the only reason. Otherwise, keep plugging on as originally planned. Keep the date.

There had been big plans for that first day, May 12th. A Tuesday. I guess publishers just pick random days of the week to launch. I don’t know. Anyway, I had a real nice meet and greet all planned out with the good people at Plain and Fancy, a large tourist attraction over along 340. Lots of traffic, lots of people. This would be my first book signing for Broken Roads. It was a big deal to me. It would be fun, to do an event like that. I was planning to invite all my friends to stop by. A grand old time would be had by all.

And now, that’s gone. And a couple of nice big events we had planned for me in the Midwest, well, those are looking pretty shaky, too. I guess I can just go later, if I have to. The venues will always be open. It’s disappointing, of course it is. Not gonna pretend it’s not. I’ve always believed you just keep walking in the arena you’re in. Don’t waste energy grumbling about the path or the journey. And I’ve thought about it, too, lately. If the book doesn’t sell well, I can always blame it on this great global epidemic that was going on. I could always grumble, I guess, about the general unfairness of it all. I just don’t know what good it would do.

So, anyway. After I reached out to the Hachette people, I heard from them quickly. Yes. We were on schedule. All the logistics had been worked out, the book was being printed. There it was. We were on. I felt relieved. Good. Keep walking. Work with whatever obstacles get in the way, get around them.

And soon after that, a week or so, I got word that my shipment of free books was on the way. They come twenty to the box. I can tell you the Corona virus will be used for pretty much any excuse, anywhere. Somehow, because of the virus, they could not break a box. Only full boxes. They’d ship me forty now, then ten later when the virus would allow them to split a box. It was kind of like a lot of things. What has to work will work. So I shrugged. About then, my agent Chip, who was copied on the messages, came along and said they could ship me his half case. I guess he had ten books coming. I was touched by his generous gesture. Right now, I wanted to get my hands on as many of those books that I could grab by hook or by crook.

And the boxes arrived, then, last week, on Wednesday. Three little boxes of twenty copies each. I took the closest box and cut it open. And I held up my first real finished copy of my book. It was a bigger deal in my head than I thought it would be. Ain’t a whole lot of people who get to see the place I’m standing at. Some, sure, and some see much higher places. But not a lot. I was, like, well, in my head, I was like, this is a rare moment. Hold this book and appreciate it.

Ira holding Broken Roads
Grizzly Adams and his book

I haven’t read the book in depth, just scanned it. A few spots that had been a bit bumpy, mostly we got them cleared up. Broken Roads is different than Growing Up Amish was. It’s pretty rough and raw. A few reviews have been cropping up on Amazon. I get a strong sense that there will be harsher criticism than I ever saw with my first book. It’s OK. The market will be what it is.

I have never met my friend, Steven L. Denlinger, in person. I’ve talked to him a few times. He comes from the Plain Mennonites, a place somewhat like where I came from. He understands me well, our journeys were very similar in a lot of ways. Not in all ways, of course, as Mennonites and Amish are distinct. But the cultures are close cousins. Both are hard to break free from.

Steven is an accomplished writer and teacher. I sent him an early copy of Broken Roads, and he offered to write a review. He has done that. This review is superbly crafted, and it’s the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis I have ever read about any of my writings. It’s not all sweetness and light, he criticizes where it’s called for. I was touched by this particularly powerful and moving passage:

“When he’s slogging the dark ravines of his mother’s illness, when he’s pursuing his father’s blessing—Wagler writes with the rhythm of demonic hounds howling, the grace notes of an angelic descant trailing above. The memoir hurtles forward—down this road, around that corner, and over the muddy plains soaked in the ‘delicious amber fire’ of whiskey.

During his bleakest moments, Wagler exposes the true cost of his life’s quest for freedom.”

A new door opens to a new road. The traveler holds firm his staff and walks.