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. Will Whitmore


      Thanks for a great article and giving us a chance to win a copy!

    2. Mary Morton

      Love to read this book

      I’ve read many books about the Amish. I am fascinated by their lifestyle, maybe because I have many relatives that lived a plain lifestyle. To God be the glory


    3. kim hansen

      Enjoyed the Q & A.

      1. Looking forward to another facinating true story

        My copy of Growing Up Amish is much beloved & read many times. Thank you for sharing more of your life with us.

      2. Karen M Larsen

        Thank you for giving us a chance to win a great book!

        I really like reading about the Amish and their way of life.I especially like the q and a articles.Would love to win a copy,and also read your first book! Thank you.

    4. Pat Thompson

      Amish book

      I am fascinated with the Amish. I was raised in a conservative minister’s home, and I see a lot of similarity. My daughter and I have Amish friends. We were invited into an Amish home last summer. Thanks for these posts.

    5. Alice Berger

      I'd love to read this!

      I’m always fascinated to hear the Amish tell their own stories. This would be a great read, and I’d like to win a copy!

    6. Lisa Meaney

      Thanks for the info and the chance to win this book. I love all the articles!

    7. Laurie McGowan

      I would love to win your latest book and learn more about your experience in growing up with the Amish.
      Thank you for this opportunity!

    8. Angelia Edwards

      Broken Roads

      I love to read about the Amish and the Amish Culture. Thanks so much for the book review.

    9. G J Stewart

      I respect these folk. Now I want some insight into their life.

    10. Jennifer

      Look forward to reading this! Enjoyed the first book.

    11. Betty Bernhardt

      Hope I Win!

      I hope I win as our local library does not have your books.

    12. Sierra Culver

      I am so excited to read Broken Roads!

    13. Collection of Amish Writings (Book Giveaway)

      I lived in PA for 65 years near New Wilmington and had the pleasure of interacting with the Amish and becoming friends with several. I read a lot of Amish fiction and would be pleased to read your story of truth. May God bless and thank you for revealing your innermost thoughts.

    14. Great articile

      You got my attention. Thank you for your story and this giveaway. I would feel blessed if I were to win.

      wfnren at aol dot com

    15. Very interesting

      I have everything I can get my hands on about the Amish and would live to have this.

    16. Eugene Fritz

      Broken Roads

      I really became interested in the Amish Culture after I set up tours for the Elderhostel Programs that were begun after the movie Witness was released. The University where I taught was on the edge of the Amish Community so it was a natural to begin this program. Several years ago my wife and I moved to Retirement Community in the same area and one of the Educational Programs they sponsored was on the Amish Community and Ira was one of the keynote speakers. It was there I purchased his book, Growing Up Amish, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Anxious to get his second, Broken Roads.

    17. Sandra Otto

      Amish book giveaway

      Thank you for sharing a very personal and informative life story. I look forward to reading it!

    18. Abner Schlabach

      Interesting follow-up

      I loved the first book and look forward to reading this one. I grew up in the Amish community of Holmes Co., Ohio and with many Amish relatives. So I have a pretty good understanding of the culture and enjoy reading about what makes it tick.

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

      “Growing Up Amish” was wonderful! Getting a glimpse into some of the Amish life at the time I was born was very interesting to me. And, knowing that the “story” was written by someone who grew up in that faith and lifestyle, helped me see the Amish more clearly. At least in the area that Ira Wagler is from. Thank you, Ira, for sharing.

    20. Wendy Bailey

      Interesting Interview

      Great interview. I look forward to reading this new book.

    21. MaryEllen Ashenfelder

      Broken Roads

      Interesting article. Love reading about the Amish. Would love to win a copy of this book. Thank you.

    22. Carole Van Voorhis

      broken roads

      very interesting q&a looking forward to reading the book.

    23. Even if I win, I'll buy another.

      Thanks, Ira. Looking forward to seeing your newest release. Keep up the good work. And thanks, Eric, for covering this new offering from Brother Ira. You also keep up the good work. Rich.

    24. I would like to read this book. It can shed light on a young friend of mine.

      I am acquainted with a young White Top Amish man who has just left the Amish and taken his young family with him. I would like to understand what it has been like for him as tries to live English. It seems to me there must be many unexpected situations to be addressed.

    25. Helen

      A new book!

      I’ve not heard of either the original book nor the follow up by this author. It will be interesting to read them! Thank you for sharing the info!

    26. Don Dersnah

      Broken Roads

      Pick Me! Pick Me! Pick.Me! PICK ME!!!!!

    27. DP Adams

      Learning more

      I would appreciate learning more about the author, Ira Wagler’s journey and more about the Amish way of life in this non-fiction book. I also like living near Amish Communities & traveling to other Amish Communities. Thank you for this opportunity to learn about the new book and of the possibility to win a free copy.

    28. Edna Vandervort

      Broken Roads interview

      Can’t wait to read this book after reading the first one. I know many of the people in the stories and am also an ex-Amish who searched for faith. (And found it)

    29. Don Wilkin

      A Glimpse of the Future

      I have spent thirty years trying to predict what the typical American lifestyle will be in the future when affordable fossil fuel is no longer available. I think Old Order Amish and Mennonites who farm have the most workable model. Growing our own food locally is going to be essential. Everything I read along these lines helps my understanding. Being retired, I’d love to get a free copy, but I will certainly order one if I don’t.

    30. Monique Matthews

      Thank You

      I have always been fascinated by the plain folk and always love to read books like this. Would love the opportunity to read this one.

    31. Roger Skarr

      Broken Roads: Returning to my Amish Father

      After reading Ira Wagler’s insightful “Growing Up Amish” in 2011 I look forward to reading “Broken Roads: Returning to my Amish Father”

    32. Cathy Cavalcante

      Ira never minces words

      In either his books, blog or even on facebook…Ira always tells it like it is. Glad to call him a friend. Congrats on the new book, Ira!! It’s at the top of my ‘To Be Read’ pile…have just been so busy, I haven’t gotten much of any reading done! But I will again real soon!

    33. Broken Roads returning to my Amish Father

      I’m looking forward to reading the follow up too Iras first book “ Growing up Amish”. I always wondered how life turned out for that young man in all the new strangeness . His story was surprisingly kind of similar to my mothers experiences of escaping East Germany, moving to America. I found that fascinating that life within the same country could be so different and divided also. Comparing my life to that of Iras also as we are of a similar age group, reading his struggles growing up compared to mine at a same age were so very different. I look forward to the follow up and still hope to see this in a movie form one day.

    34. Loretta Shumpert

      Broken Roads

      Would love to have my own copy of Broken Roads. Although I enjoy amish fiction…to a degree…I so much more enjoy true life stories. Having read Ira’s first book, I am looking forward to this next one.

    35. Houston Gaither

      I loved the first book, have read it completely through 2 times & read Ira’s blog faithfully. I was so glad for his reconciliation with his dad & family! Looking forward to “Broken Roads”!

    36. Lisa Moore

      Broken Roads

      Thanks for Amish America and for the book would love to win a copy

    37. Ramona Rodhe

      Broken Roads

      I am looking forward to reading. I lived in Middlefield Oh for many years and drove the Amish around and became friends with many. I love shopping in their stores but could spend hours in the book stores

    38. Dianna Micklatcher


      I like reading of the Amish, those who stay, those who leave. There are distant relatives who left the Amish on my father’s side, and I have always felt drawn to learn more.

    39. Ann Varner

      Re Give Away

      I would truly like the chance of receiving one of your books. I so enjoy reading about the Amish. Your books sound very interesting.

    40. Sheree McLean

      Give Away

      I’m so excited about this book! Whether I win it or buy it….it will be read.

      Thank you!

    41. better late than never!

      I am glad to read about this book, which has definitely made me want to read both. I became interested in the Amish and the apparent simplicity if the Amish life when I met and traveled alongside many an Amish family on Amtrak. I am also glad I made some Amish friends, one if whom was kind enough to sew a traveling dress for me, when I commented that my own traveling clothes weren’t necessarily as comfortable and even attractive. I realize that Amish dresses are not intended to be attractive or flattering, but I find them so.
      I’m also intetested in hearing from a male perspective. I’ve befriended some lovely ladies, and I even read an “English” woman who chose the Amish life of her husband. It was an excellent read, andI am curious about these topics as seen from different perspectives.




    43. Jim Hiatt

      Excellent Interview

      Excellent interview

    44. Phyllis Myers

      Hoping there’s a third book!

    45. Debra Harbour

      Love your first book.

      I loved your first book and can’t wait to read this one.

    46. ERin

      I would love to read this book. Sounds very interesting! Thanks!

    47. Brooke Creamer

      Ira-excited to read your next book! I don’t know if you remember us but my husband Jonathan and I came in and met you with friends from Indiana- Heidi, Doug, and Sofia Metzger;). Hope you’re doing well-look forward to getting your next book!
      Machts Goot!;)

    48. Lena

      Anticipated sequel

      We’ve been looking forward to this since we met Ira a few years ago and spent some time discussing why and how he wrote his first book… which was bittersweet, poignant, and sometimes funny. Living near Nappanee, Indiana, we loved his observation as an Iowa Amish boy about the family’s strange visitors who ”wore shoes… being from Nappanee and all.”

    49. Brooke Creamer

      Hi Ira-excited to read your new book! I don’t know if you remember me but my husband Jonathan and I came to visit you at work with our friends from Indiana!
      Hope all is well with you-look forward for your new book!
      Machts Goot!!

    50. Leslie Harris

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

      I’m starting to really get into factual Amish history and lifestyle books, and this would be a nice addition to my quickly growing library.

      Ira is very generous to share his life story with us. Thank you Ira!