Ira Wagler on Broken Roads: Returning To My Amish Father (Interview & Giveaway)

Ira Wagler‘s best-selling 2011 memoir Growing Up Amish told the story of his life as a young man, and his eventual decision to leave the Amish behind.

Broken Roads: Returning To My Amish Father is his just-released follow-up.

It covers subsequent events in his life, and in particular, his relationship with his father, David L. Wagler. Among David’s accomplishments, he was co-founder of the Amish monthly Family Life.

Ira is with us today to answer some questions on Broken Roads. I finished it earlier this week and really enjoyed it. If you liked Growing Up Amish, I think you’ll like this one too.

Broken Roads 2-Book Giveaway

Ira is kindly offering two books as a giveaway for Amish America readers. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post.

The giveaway is limited to US addresses only. I will draw two winners at random and post them next week.

Ira Wagler on Broken Roads: Returning To My Amish Father

Amish America: Give us a recap – what did Growing Up Amish cover, and where does this one pick up? What do we learn next in your story?

Ira Wagler: Growing Up Amish ended as I was leaving the Amish for the last time. The young man following his own path, in his own way, in his own time. Breaking free. A classic coming of age tale, woven into Amish culture. It wasn’t really planned that way, but Broken Roads is the story of coming home. Of returning again and again to the father and the people that I had left behind. Not because I wanted to stay there, but because I wanted to keep my relationships with my family.

Amish America: Who was your father?

Ira Wagler: David L. Wagler was among the most famous Amish men of his lifetime, or any time. A giant of a man among his people. He shook the earth, wherever he went. He was a writer, an intellectual, a defender of the Amish faith and lifestyle. Some of the apologetics he got tangled up in were a little rough and tumble. There was always some strident shouting going on at the peripheral of things. Background noise, I guess. He never backed away from a good fight, um, I mean, argument. That got his blood going. Other than that, his writings were pretty calm. Interesting. Well written. Writing was his calling, and he devoted his life to following that calling.

Now that you’ve done this twice, I’m curious about the process of doing this one vs. Growing Up Amish. Which was “tougher” to write? How did you approach this book versus your first? Did you plan to do a second book or did things just unfold that way? 

When I wrote Growing Up Amish, I was totally focused on getting that story told. Nothing more, and no further. I didn’t think much about a second book. I figured it would come when it came. And that’s what happened. The second book is the story of many broken roads: Marriage exploding, betrayal by a best friend, and reconnecting with my estranged family, things a lot of people deal with every day. I would not say I planned the second book. It came on its own, with a bit of nudging from the publisher and my agent. I got stuck for a full year in the writing of it. Hachette, my publisher, was very patient.

Give us a couple of things we’ll learn in Broken Roads that you’ve not shared elsewhere.

Most of the details of my courtship of Ellen were never told anywhere before. The early transformation from Amish to English, I had not written much about any of that. Most of the book comes from themes that I had at least touched on before. Rewritten in a coherent thread.

Three Amish communities primarily feature in this part of your story – Aylmer, Ontario; Bloomfield, Iowa; and Daviess County, Indiana. Why are these places significant? Which one feels closest to “home” and why? 

That’s a great question, one that makes me think. Go where I hadn’t been before, much. Any kind of childhood reflections and dreams, the setting is always in Aylmer. That’s where it actually was, of course. Bloomfield comes to mind naturally as home in my young adult years. I saw a lot of turmoil in that place, and it’s the place I kept returning to. So both Aylmer and Bloomfield have strong claims to my subconscious recollections of home. Daviess is home to my ancestral memories, not so much my real ones.

What are some of the aspects of Amish life you appreciate today, even as you live apart from the Amish?

I very much appreciate the comfortable, solid flow of their lifestyle. Emphasis on tradition, holding on to a lot of good things. Habits that go back generations, habits that get passed on because they work. I live among the Amish because I like to live among them. They are my people. I just don’t want to live that way, that’s all.

What did you learn that you didn’t know before writing this book?

Hmm. I guess I would say the process was different. More measured. I think my voice is more mature. The first book was the young man, fighting to get out. The second book is an older man coming home, looking back on some hard things. Ordinary things. Just hard.

Tell us where to find your blog and where to get the book. 

My blog:

If a bookstore is open where you live, call and ask them to stock it. Many places are closed down, so you can order the book online. Just google for links or search on Amazon.

When can we expect book #3?

No idea. When working on each of my first two books, I focused totally on the story I wanted to tell. The first book, leaving. The second book, returning and burying my father. I thought no further than getting to the end of the story I was telling.

So, I’m saying, I haven’t thought of it. I don’t know. Maybe soon, if the market makes it happen. Or maybe not, too. Whatever or whenever it is, book #3 will be real or it won’t be at all.

You can get Broken Roads at Amazon and other places. Thanks to Ira for sharing with us today.

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    1. J.O.B.


      Sounds like a good book. I’m in!

    2. Jamie

      Broken Roads

      I did read Growing Up Amish and I would love to read Ira’s follow up book Broken Roads. Thank You!

    3. Maria-Catharina Mura

      Interesting and intriguing

      Enjoyed reading your interview. Look forward to reading your book.
      My family comes from Alsace-Lorraine orginally and speak the native language of the Hutterites and Amish.
      My culture is basically gone. So have studies the Amish to learn about Alsace. There is much similarity in customs, traditions, food and cooking and language. I enjoy reading everything I can get about the Amish. Thank you for writing your biography. I really appreciate it.

    4. rick

      great storyteller

      I’ve always loved Ira’s blog, though I haven’t read it for quite a while. Every so often I have to re-read his post “Calling Amos” – a top notch example of his skill.

    5. Rita Persing

      Broken Roads book

      Read the first book and enjoyed it very much – looking forward to the second. From neighboring York County, I enjoy living in the vicinity of 2 local Amish districts and I enjoy learning about my Amish neighbors

    6. Denise

      Very much enjoyed the first book and would really like to have a copy of this new one! Either way, I know I will be reading it!

    7. sue

      such an interesting read !

      I would love a chance to read either of these books !

    8. B.J. Dominic

      Ira's book

      A book such as Ira’s may open the reality door for many. Today’s Amish fiction books
      tend to have similar and overused plots, themes, situations, and characters. The unreality becomes repetitious, and even with a somewhat desperate and saturated marketing,it all
      may be a sign for a more accurate, realistic, and fresh type of writing for the reader’s
      experience of less fantasy and more reality.

    9. Lee Simmons

      Book Giveaway

      It would be interesting to read this book. The first one was enjoyable.

    10. Heidi Vandewalle

      Book giveaway

      I am very intrigued by the Amish, I will be looking for the first book and would enjoy reading this book.

    11. Linda Ortiz

      Interesting to learn the struggles of a young man coming out of the Amish. I bet, it must have been hard to write the 2nd book and probably having to relive some things that are sometimes better to push down than to bring them back to the surface. Looking forward to reading this book.

    12. Elizabeth Butler

      Bookgive away

      Hi everyone I like to read all different types of amish books.I am very drawn to read as many Amish books that I can and I would like to read this book also. Thank you so much and God bless

    13. Cathie segal

      Ira Wagner

      I so enjoyed the first book. I have reread much of it. Gives you a touch of Amish reality.

    14. Dianne Churchwell-Patterson

      Mister Ira Wagler books giveaway

      Mister Ira Wagler’s books giveaway would be an interesting venture;in,my Amish regular readings !
      So far, my Amish readings are generated by female authors,(i e.Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter,
      Let us see if author, Wagler will be my first male ;on, the most marvelous, Amish way of living out their God- given lives ! “

    15. Carolyn Murphy


      I always find it interesting to hear about how people leave their Amish community and how they are afterwards

    16. Rose Geer

      I would love to read this book..

    17. Ira Wagler on Broken Roads Returning to my Amish Father

      I would love to read you book I grew up next to the Amish my dad lived a lot like them in so many ways my home address is Pat Cain
      935 E ST RT 60
      MCCONNELSVILLE OHIO 43756 I am a 60 year old woman and spend NY pass time reading

    18. Gail Dawson

      Interesting book

      I’d appreciate a copy of this book, which looks very interesting!

    19. Linda McFarland

      Would love to win!

      Thanks for the opportunity to win! Sounds like a wonderful story!

    20. Phyllis


      Interested in reading this book. I’ve grown up with the zamish community here in southern Maryland. My husband actually works with a family


      I love reading books about Amish Culture. Both fiction and non fiction.

    22. Cindy Bazzy

      Looking forward to reading this book. I read mostly Amish fiction as well as anything I can get my hands on that shares about the Amish and their traditions and culture and lifestyle. Thanks for the chance.

    23. Susan Albert

      Sounds interesting

      This sounds like an interesting book. I would love to win a copy.

    24. Ann Whitaker

      Ira’s book

      Ira’s perspective is always fresh and welcome. Thank you, Ira. Thank you, Amish America!

    25. William Hundley

      Returning to my Amish Father

    26. Kimberlee Gumphrey-Fletcher

      Davis Co

      I live not far from the Waglers and it is interesting to read about the Davis Co Amish and recognize landmarks that were outlined in his first book.
      Would love to read this one too!

    27. Rebekah Robbins

      Living Among Amish

      We have had Pennsylvania Amish move into Wayne County, Indiana and surrounding areas for more than 20 years.My husband and I have interacted with them in business many times. They have been a more accepting of English type of group. Now we are having Amish move in from Bern, Indiana. They are much more private. One family lives 1 mile from us. There is also rumors that land across the road may be sold to an Amish family. So I guess you could say now we are living among the Amish. Thanks for the book give way.

    28. sara rudolph

      Thank you!

      Thank you for writing your books and sharing them with us!

    29. I love reading Amish books and anything dealing Amish

    30. Tiffany Gibson


      I’ve been wanting to read his book for awhile now,looks like I need to get on it so I can read the second! I’d love to win so I don’t have to wait for our library to open up!

    31. Jennifer

      Ira wagler

      Looks like a great book .we drive for the Amish in Illinois so it would be awesome to get another look at their lives

    32. Krista sweigart


      I love the books. I live an hour outside Lancaster PA. We visit a few times a year. My children got their names from their. Emma Rebecca and Hannah. We’d go more but Hannah is in a wc sp the trip is hard.

    33. Margaret Enns

      I would really like to read this book!