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. Closure

      I’m so glad Ira found some closure with his father! I look forward to reading the book.

    2. Yoder in Ohio

      Looks interesting!

      I’d be interested in reading it. 🙂

      1. Timothy Renno

        My parents grew up Amish, but I was raised as a Mennonite. I used to read Ira’s father’s publications all the time and I did read his first book and felt sorry for Ira as he was trying to find happiness and I would enjoy reading this second book.

      2. Jeb

        This looks great, love first hand accounts of the Amish life.

    3. Thank you!

      I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish life, although I don’t think I could live without my modern conveniences! Thank you for the opportunity to win this book. Both books by this author sound very interesting.

    4. Daniel Simon

      Do the hard thing

      I am grateful for people who do what they feel is necessary especially when they know it will cause a divide

    5. Rachel Ransbarger

      Ira Wagler on Broken Roads:Returning to my Amish Father(Interview&Giveaway)

      I was so excited to discover Mr. Wagler wrote a second book, continuing his life’s journey! I am formerly Amish, out of western PA. My father left the Amish when I was 4 yr old. So, our whole family made the transition. I found your first book, Growing Up Amish in Mesopotamia, OH, at their awesome general store. I was delighted to find an accomplished, degreed, highly intelligent, literary- astute writer of Amish life. Many of Ira’s emotions & thought patterns I related to. I very much look forward to reading Book 2 of his life.

    6. Ruth Binder

      Having grown up in Ohio, have visited Ohio Amish Country for many years. Now as a senior citizen, I very much enjoy reading, including about the Amish – does Beverly Lewis sound familiar? Thank you for including my name for the giveaway.

    7. Roberta L Pawlowski

      Fascinating & eager to read!

      I have always been a sociologist both professionally & personally. I have great admiration & interest in the Amish people overall. I hope I am able to recieve this amazing story as a book!

      Thank you.

    8. Bill Morgan

      Appreciate the stories of the Amish, staying and leaving yet never fully leaving it all

      We live in a community with many Amish, and count many families as friends. Our next door neighbor decided to leave the Amish community, staying Mennonite, because he wanted to pursue spirituality without formality. It caused a lot of pain among our other friends, and as an English, we felt able to be a bridge of sorts. I must say that the Amish impress me far more than the politicized English Evangelical Church, when spirituality is at the core of their values. Thank you for this site!

    9. C. A.

      About your books

      Are any of your books on Kindle? I got a kindle after running out of bookshelf space & cleaning out my storage. So I am trying to have all new book be kindle books.

      1. Jeff Baker

        Amazon offers the kindle version for $11.99

    10. holly huff

      Looking forward to reading

      Sound like a good story to read. I live near an amish community and enjoy learning the culture similarities a d difference.

    11. Doug crosby

      sounds like interesting reading

    12. Jeffrey Hollar

      Thank you

      Thank you for sharing your life and its experiences with many who would, otherwise, have no frame of reference for how serious and irrevocable your decision to leave was. God bless you have been able to maintain the ties of family and your friends throughout your journey.

    13. Glenda johnstone


      I admire the Amish for many reason. I admire someone more who stands for their personal beliefs.
      I have read Ira’s first book would love to read this one.

    14. Ron Wilson

      Family love

      In Holmes County, Ohio, I had an occasion to meet a woman who had left the Amish church. I was fortunate to see her beautiful, loving relationship with her Amish mother. The woman’s two daughters were able to have a wonderful grandma to love. I suppose it is possible to leave the church without leaving the family.

    15. Broken Roads

      I would love to read these two books. They sound interesting.

    16. Linda Bushman

      Easy to say. Hard to do.

    17. Bernice DiVincenzo

      Looking Forward to this one

      I have read Growing Up Amish & will definitely buy the book, but if I’m lucky enough to win a copy of it then I will send it to a friend who also loves reading about the Amish & their way of life. Thanks for this opportunity. God Bless.

    18. Lynn Maniscalco

      Waagler books

      I would look forward to learning how his brave act of leaving actually worked out for him.

    19. Jilda gilliam

      I would love to read your books, I have always said I admire the Amish people and their way of living. I really would love to spend some time with them and learn how they do some of their things

    20. Penny L. Ray

      Book Giveaway

      I enjoyed the snippet from your first book so much, I ordered it. This 2nd book would be exceptionally nice to win.

    21. Geo


      It reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. Having myself diverged very far from the life path of my Father, I tend to identify, and I want to read these books.

    22. Gwen Witmer


      I would be delighted to win Ira’s second book. I have Growing Up Amish and have read it through several times.

    23. Stephen


      Sounds like an interesting read.

    24. Barb

      Sounds Interesting

      These books sound very interesting. Would love to win them.

    25. Suzi

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

      I read your first book and so look forward to reading this one as well. The thing I like most is the openness and honesty with which you write.

      God bless you with peace and love.

    26. Deborah Hazelton

      Would love to read this book. It sounds very interesting. Thanks for the chance to win.

    27. david king

      i can identify with Ira

      I grew up amish in Lancaster County, where Ira now lives.There are many good things about my people, and some not so good. they need to know that the plan of salvation is contained in Acts 2;38.

      I enjoyed reading his first book, and have read a number of his blogs

    28. If this book is like zGrowing up Amish, WOW

      I felt your anguish, cried espically when your horse died, felt your freedom of passage and celebrated your broken engagement. I have never read a book that i could hear the author and feel his personal friendship. Sad to complete the book and lose a friend. I look forward to reading Broken Roads.

    29. Lifes Journey

      Sounds like an interesting read about Ira Wagler’s journey.

    30. Elisabeth Farra


      Would love to win this to read! I love in an Amish startup community . Good people.

    31. Vivian Furbay

      I have had an interest in the Amish for quite some time. This sounds like a very good book. I enjoyed the interview.

    32. Carol

      Wagler book

      Look forward to reading this most recent book!

    33. Debra

      Ira's new book

      I very much enjoyed Ira’s first book, and was delighted this morning to learn there is a second book of his life. Can’t wait to read it! Danke!

    34. Nancy Bowers

      A Real Look at the Amish

      Read the first book…looking forward to reading this one too. Appreciate his candor.

    35. Laura Raigoza

      Love to read

      I would love to read this book. As a book lover, Christian and history major, I find the Amish and Mennonites very interesting and steeped in history. I grew up near the PA communities and now live near Pinecraft. Both great places to visit!

    36. fascinating

      i very much enjoyed your first book. i imagine this was tougher and at the same time,a love letter to your dad. looking forward to reading it

    37. Susan Campbell


      I can’t wait to read this book. I enjoyed his first book and have waiting for him to write another one. This was a fascinating article to read.

    38. Christine McMahon-Chase

      Ira’s new book

      I imagine many emotions come rushing in when writing about your past, family, etc. I’m sure it was a draining experience at times.

    39. Lisa Yetman


      Ira’s previous book so touched my heart, so I am sure this continuation will do the same. Family is always important, no matter where a single member decides to go or do. We all yearn at heart to be part of family. We may all be parts (small though they may be) of a bigger whole, but belonging will always reach out to us.

    40. Diane

      I'd like to have this one.

      So much to keep learning about The Amish. I’d really like to own this to savor the personal transitions of Ira. There are so many romantic Amish books out that a real, live experience needs to balance my thinking of them. Thanks, Ira, for your dedicated efforts to clear up our stereotypes and give us compassion for the real people.

    41. Carol Austin

      New Book

      I would love to read this new book. I love to read anything about the Amish people. They are fascinating. Thanks.

    42. New Book

      I would love to read this new book. I love to read anything about the Amish people. They are fascinating. Thanks

    43. Juanita Cook.

      Sounds very interesting. Would love to win this book.

    44. Rita Ellington

      I would love to read your story.
      I so appreciate “clean reading”.
      Please consider picking me as a winner.
      Thank you very much.

    45. Lance Bon

      I lived and worked with Enin Valley Amish back in the 1950's and early 60's

      My mothers family had a large farm on Enon. I lived and went to 2nd and 3rd grade back in 1952 and 1953 in Enon. Every Friday my mother (she owned a Chevy pickup) would drive E. Byler to Beaver Falls to sell produce to their regular customers. I would have to stay at their farm all day and help with chores. There were 4 children Seth,Eli Emilia, and the baby. Seth and Eli were two of my best friends, those were some best years if my life (1956 to 1965) I could spend days talking about my time with them.
      Our family’s farm would butcher 1/2 dozen pigs and later would butcher beef cattle, every one of these where carried out by 3 or 4 of my uncles and 3 or 4 Amish men plus me and my young cousins. In the kitchen were all the woman and young girls.
      I left PA in November 1965 and went to the merchant marines, several years later, talking with my mother, she told me Seth and Eli left the Amish. I would love to hear from them again. I have no way of finding out, also besides Enon they have family in New Wilmington. Seth and Eli would now be in their early 70’s.

    46. Kathy Wendt

      I am an avid Amish fiction reader and would like to read this real story.

    47. Michelle Ruggiero

      Book and giveaway

      I love to follow your posts. The Amish are fascinating. In this complicated world they mange to live simply. Please add my name to the book giveaway. I would live to read it.f I am not so lucky to win, I will seek it from a bookstore.

    48. Pat Monti

      Kudos to You and Your Courage

      Kudos to you and your courage which it undoubtedly took in your writing of both books! I’m confident that they’re both extremely interesting and insightful.

    49. Amish

      I would love to read these books. I will look them up I hope they are on Audiobooks. I love this site and all the information. I crave a more simplistic life.

    50. Char Nielsen

      Ira is a great writer!

      I have followed Ira’s blog for years, read his first book, and even met him in person once when I was visiting Lancaster County.

      I was born in Daviess County, Indiana where Ira’s family is from. Though I have never lived a plain lifestyle myself, I enjoy and relate to the stories he tells. His writing is real, raw, and straight from the heart.