Saloma Miller Furlong on Bonnet Strings (Giveaway)

Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds is the new memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong.  You might know Saloma from her blog, previous book Why I Left the Amish, or more recently, from the PBS film The Amish: Shunned.

In today’s interview, Saloma discusses topics including Bonnet Strings, her former community, and The Amish: Shunned.

Bonnet Strings 2-Book Giveaway

Saloma Miller Furlong Bonnet Strings MemoirSaloma and Herald Press are giving away two copies of Bonnet Strings for Amish America readers.  To enter, leave a comment or question on this post.

For an extra entry, share using social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.  Let me know you did with an email to amishamerica@ gmail.com.  We’ll draw winners next Monday, March 24, and post them here (Just FYI: lately we’ve been posting book winners on the original giveaway post with a small update at the top, not in a separate post).

Q&A with Saloma Miller Furlong

Amish America: For readers who aren’t familiar with your back story and your first book, can you share a little about that?

Saloma Miller Furlong: Yes. Why I Left the Amish begins with an unanticipated break in my studies during my first semester at Smith College in 2004 when my father died and I traveled back to Ohio to my childhood community for his funeral. Finding myself back in the horse and buggy world I had left twenty-four years before, and then suddenly back on Smith College campus in a matter of forty-eight hours left me reflecting on the two separate and distinct lives I have lived.

I use the narrative present to tell the story of my childhood and young adulthood in my Amish community in northeastern Ohio. Mine was not the idyllic childhood that many people think of when they think “Amish.” I had a father with mental illness, a brutal older brother, and a mother who did not always protect me.

In addition to the adversities I faced in my childhood, I also found that my inquisitive nature was a mismatch with the culture that I was taught I could never leave. I questioned the Amish ways, even after I joined the church and was baptized.

The last part of Why I Left the Amish chronicles my journey out of the only community I had known, to a place where I knew no one.

How does this book fit with your first?

Saloma: Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds continues the story I started in Why I Left the Amish. When I landed at the YWCA in Burlington, Vermont, I reveled in my newfound freedom, established a social life, and began dating. I met a Yankee toymaker and peddler, David, who was eager to learn everything he could about the Amish, and he was willing to help me sort out the complexities of my new world.

Saloma Furlong Author Photo
Saloma Miller Furlong. Photo by Kerstin Martin

Then one Friday night, my freedom came to an abrupt end when a vanload of Amish people showed up at my front door to bring me back into the fold. I could not resist the overwhelming presence of the bishop and others, and so I returned to Ohio with them. Thus began a long struggle of feeling torn between two worlds: should I remain Amish and embrace the sense of belonging and community my Amish life offered, or should I return to the freedom I had experienced in Vermont?

Upon my return, I settled into teaching in an Amish school and did my best to fit back into Amish ways, but a legacy of childhood abuse and questions of identity plagued me. My ties to the outside world remained, especially through the quiet perseverance of the toymaker from Vermont. I kept telling him that a romance is impossible because “I’m Amish and you’re not.” Yet he kept sending me cards, never giving up hope that our love could survive the strain of living in two different worlds.

We’ve looked before at what the term “Amish” means.  You describe it as not just a religion and way of life, but a way of thinking and being. What do you mean by that?

Saloma: There is a passage in the book that makes an attempt at describing what I mean by a way of thinking and being. I was contemplating the question a Vermont friend had asked about which world I was happier in.

Saloma Miller Amish1
Saloma in Amish clothing

If I looked at it purely from my own point of view, then the answer was clear: I was certainly happier in my Vermont world. My freedom was about me as an individual. But Amish people carried a sense of duty or obligation for the community as a whole that other people didn’t understand. To be born and raised and then baptized into the community was a covenant not to be taken lightly. Being back in my Amish world was about community and something greater than myself, and it didn’t have to do with my personal happiness.

In essence the way I would describe the Amish way of thinking and being is in this paragraph… it is about what is good for the community, while in the mainstream culture we think much more about what is good for the individual.

Can people who are no longer in an Amish church still be Amish?

Saloma: According to Amish teachings, the answer is no. We were taught that you are either Amish or not… there simply is no in between. I used to fight against this notion, thinking that I have the best of both worlds — I have a lot of Amishness in me, and yet I don’t have to be restricted by their Ordnung. But I have actually come around to agreeing with the Amish teachings. Those of us who leave have to suffer the loss of our people and community. Being Amish separate from the community is pretty much impossible.

And yet part of me will always be Amish. I imagine it is much like being an ethnic Jew, though not a practicing one.

What has the reception been like for Bonnet Strings?

Saloma: I would never have guessed how positively people are reacting to this second book. I’ve gotten many comments through social media and emails. People relate to my book in ways that I could never have imagined. Even close friends who were strangely quiet about my first book are raving about the second one. I’ve been told that I’ve progressed in my writing style between the two books. I have to give a lot of the credit for that to Valerie Weaver-Zercher, who helped me shape Bonnet Strings into what it is.

Bonnet Strings Saloma Miller FurlongPerhaps the most gratifying response comes from my sister, Sarah. She was hurt by some of the things I wrote in my first book, to the point that it took her two years to come around to wanting to talk to me again.

Two nights ago, she and I had an hours-long conversation that touched on philosophy, family relations, and other topics. She raved about Bonnet Strings, and says she could not put it down. Because I did not actually expect that anyone in my family would approve of the book, this came as a pleasant surprise.

As you note in your introduction, there is a lot of diversity across the over 460 Amish settlements today.  What are some things people might find interesting about the Amish of Geauga County?

Saloma: Many people do not know that the Geauga County community is the fourth largest Amish community. They are of the lesser known Amish, partly by choice. When I was growing up, they often used the Lancaster community as an example of what they did not want in terms of tourism. They felt that the Amish in Lancaster had “sold out” their religion and way of life.

When I left the Amish in 1980, Geauga County had a little over 30 church districts, and now there are more than 100 church districts in that community. And counting.

The Amish in Geauga County are Old Order. On the spectrum of liberal versus conservative Old Order Amish, the Geauga County Amish are somewhere in the middle.

Geauga County Amish Mesopotamia
Buggy traffic in Mesopotamia in the Geauga County Amish community. Photo by Jack Pearce/flickr

What was the experience of participating in The Amish: Shunned like?

Saloma: To quote Levi Shetler, “It was pretty awesome, actually.”

I already had a working relationship with Callie Wiser from the first film The Amish, so this seemed like a pretty natural progression. Callie has a way of bringing out the essence of people’s stories and portraying them in meaningful ways. She did a really good job capturing the poignancy of each of the people’s stories she told. I am honored to have been a part of both films.

In the film your story is intertwined with that of Anna, who comes to live with you after leaving her community. How would you describe the role you played for her?  Why do you think Anna eventually returned to her community?

Saloma: My husband, David, and I gave Anna a place to live, and helped her start a bakery and basket-weaving business out of our home. We basically became her surrogate parents.

With a close viewing of the film, a person can see the signs that Anna was having a hard time making the transition into the mainstream culture. She came from the strictest of the strict — in fact the strictest of the Swartzentruber divisions. There were very few choices she could make for herself, because so such was determined by her church Ordnung. The cultural divide was just too wide for her to traverse. Also, the homesickness she was experiencing was pretty intense. Anna was the favorite aunt of her forty nieces and nephews and she missed her family. She could not sacrifice her community to have personal freedom.

What has been the hardest of all is that Anna is not allowed to write to us. Having lost all contact is heart-wrenching.

Update: I attended Saloma’s talk in Asheboro, NC last night (March 27).  She had quite a nice crowd, I’m guessing 80-100 people? Below, a couple of shots from my tablet camera of Saloma and David during the talk and afterwards.  They got a lot of questions as you might expect.  A very nice evening and audience.

Saloma Furlong Talk Asheboro Nc

Saloma Furlong After Talk Asheboro

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    155 Comments

    1. Writing a new book is never an easy job; but giving birth to one is always a magnificent event ! I’ll read it even if I’m not from the winners 🙂 I’m also interested in reading Anna’s story. Behind the religious practices, it’s also very interesting and not so often we can appreciate how a social person can move from one group to an other. How she shall can (sorry for this bad English) re-build herself, how she’ll re-build her religious and woman identity.

      Congratulations Saloma,
      and please continue, we have so much to learn from you.

      With many blessings of peace,
      Bob.

      1. Bob, your remarks are very kind… thank you! You are right… moving from one social group to another is no small thing. My latest blog post is about trying to reach a new understanding that Anna may be better suited for her Amish life than she was for life in the outside world. In some ways, she gave up her choice by returning. It is the dominant culture that values choice and freedom, while the Amish value community. Who am I to say which is better?

        May you be showered with blessings along the roads you travel.

        Saloma

      2. Bob Charles

        Bonnet Strings

        Saloma Miller Furlong is such an interesting person and I look forward to her new book. I have much to learn from her and the community she decided to leave.

        1. Bob, thank you so much for your kind remarks. I hope you get a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.” I believe we all learn from one another.

          Many Blessings,
          Saloma

    2. Osiah Horst

      Bonnet Strings

      I had such an empty feeling after reading “Why I Left the Amish”. Something was left incomplete. I have Ira Wagler’s book “Growing up Amish” and haven’t read it yet. As a former Old Order Mennonite, having moved to a black car conservative Mennonite church, I understand in a very small way what Saloma and Ira and Katie Troyer and others have experienced. But I think I am still closer to Old Order than to the society that they have moved into. I feel a sense of hurt or guilt that our Old Order churches have not been able to meet the needs of more of our young people. I look forward to reading “Bonnet Strings”, if not a free copy, then I will need to buy my own.

      Saloma, my brother left home at sixteen, first going to a liberal Mennonite church, then leaving it as well for a New Age type setting. He has quite a collection of books by Don Kraybill and others who write about Old Order Amish and Mennonites. Even while rejecting the old ways completely, he still remembers much from his first sixteen years of life.

      1. Osiah, I understand your feelings about the Old Order cultures and I share them. It is difficult to feel caught between the two cultures, isn’t it? I have often wished I would have been endowed with a nature that could fit into the culture and not question so much. But I was endowed with the nature I have, and as Mem would say, “That’s just the way it is.”

        We can lament the fact that the OO cultures are not meeting the needs of more young people. Or we can marvel at the fact that they have the retention rate they do have. If that is any indication of satisfaction, then it seems they are meeting the needs of the majority of young people.

        I understand where your brother is coming from, too. No matter what, our roots will always be OO.

        Thank you, Osiah, for your comments. Many blessings to you.

        Saloma

    3. Ms. Furlong’s first book is still on my reading list, and I would love to read her second as well. Glad she continued her story for those who were apparently left wanting more.

      1. Lucie, I hope you enjoy both books. Many people who didn’t like my first book are enjoying the second. Some have chosen to read the second book first, and some of them then go back and read the first.

        Happy reading!

        Saloma

    4. Margaret

      So glad she wrote another book, and I will definitely be reading it. Her words are powerful–filled with honesty and emotion.

      1. Margaret, thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy my book.

        Saloma

    5. I have wanted to read “My Amish Life” but haven’t yet, now with “Bonnet Strings” out I have two books I am adding to my wish list. I am very interested in the Amish but I do feel that only good things are usually expressed in the stories. I’m sure there are more ‘unspeakable’ things happening in families than we wold like to believe, abuse, rapes, etc. but it’s kind of like before television, internet, social media, etc. the incidents are not heard about or swept under the rug. Thank you for sharing your story.

      wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

      1. Wendy, thank you for your comments. In my books, I write about the less seen side of living in an insular community… abuse happens wherever there are humans. I know that most of the bonnet fiction books tend to portray the Amish in ways that are not accurate. Even the fictionalized “faults” do not ring true.

        I hope you enjoy reading “Bonnet Strings.”

        Many Blessings,

        Saloma

    6. Carol

      Enjoyed the first book so much as well as Saloma’s blog. Would love to win this! Keep writing!

      1. Thank you, Carol, for your kind words. Why wouldn’t I keep writing with readers like you?

        Happy reading!

        Saloma

    7. amyc

      Lovely

      What a lovely interview with Ms. Furlong. I really enjoyed her in the PBS special and can’t wait to read her book.

      1. Amy, so glad you enjoyed this post. I was complimenting Erik on this post myself. I love his effective use of photos… not just in this post, but others as well.

        So glad you enjoyed the PBS film. I was honored to be a part of it.

        Warm regards,
        Saloma

    8. Thank You

      Thank you for a wonderful interview. I enjoyed reading more about Saloma’s journey and latest book. I am sorry to hear that Saloma and David have lost contact with Anna.

      Looking forward to reading Bonnet Strings. Thanks again for sharing this interview!

      1. Karen, I’ve not seen you in a while… it’s so good to see you here! Glad you enjoyed “Bonnet Strings.”

        I know, even 14 months after Anna’s return, I am still trying to come to terms with not being in touch with her. My two latest blog posts are about her.

        Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

        Blessings to you,
        Saloma

    9. Wendy Bailey

      I saw the PBS series on the Amish but was not aware Saloma had written two books. I will mark both down on my must read list. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of Bonnet Strings. Sounds like a wonderful book.

      1. Wendy, I don’t think you are the only one… there is no direct link between my involvement with the two films and my books.

        Happy reading!

        Saloma

    10. Diana Mitchell

      Saloma, I appreciate so much your forthrightness and sharing of your experiences. I’m writing about women from several religious communities who experienced alienation, shunning, suppression. I am a birthright Quaker, raised Quaker, and a member of a Meeting in my home area, which is in Canada. Not until I read your first book and others by Hutterite and Mennonite women, did I realize, for sure, that the difficulties are similar: our perhaps being seen as unacceptably ‘different’ from what is expected of us in the eyes of elders, especially. As with Osiah, I am saddened by our communities’ seeming inability to meet the needs of our young people. But I am not young. I am now old, and the shunning has happened to me, as well, as well as a number of both young and older people who have been found unacceptable for various reasons, within my own home Quaker circle. Very sad. I would love to be part of the opening that could happen, so that fewer and fewer people who love their religious communities feel they must leave, or who are left BY the others, in various ways. Simply turning their backs on those of us who are a little bit square peggish in the round holes, is a form of cruel shunning too. Thank you for speaking out, and definitely being a part of the opening.

      1. The interplay and tension between community and the individual is a complicated thing. I’ve not figured this all out myself. It seems to me we cannot have it both ways… a strong sense of community and a strong sense of individuality. I often wonder if the strength of our individuality is commensurate with our inability to come together as a community. And vice versa… whether the cohesion in a given community is commensurate with the sacrifices people need to make to be a part of it. Authority and obedience seems to be a big part of the cohesion.

        Any insights you have to these questions I’ve been pondering would be much appreciated.

        With blessings of peace,

        Saloma

        1. Dirk

          Hi Saloma, thank you for your book, I have not read it yet, but based on your thoughtful and insightful replies on this post, I already know it will be an outstanding read.

          I too have thought about the tension that exists between the community and the individual and if I may, I would like to share my comprehension of it.

          The best way I have come to understand it is to look at the dynamics of a sport team. Where a number of individuals come together in agreement that by combining their individual talents and abilities, that by working together as a unified group, putting the team’s success ahead of their own individual success, they will be able to win the victory cup.

          The team will have a Rule Book that sets the parameters of how the game is to be played, with details on what is and what is not permitted.
          The team will have a coach who will instruct the team collectively and individually on what is required from them to ensure the team’s success.
          The game will have a referee/umpire to ensure that all players abide by the Rule Book.

          Players who decide to express their individuality and break the rules, will be sent off the field. Players who ignore the coach’s instructions, will be dropped from the team. Players who become glory hounds seeking individual personal fame, will be sidelined by their team mates. Belonging to a team requires the sacrifice of individuality.

          As life coaches are fond of saying, “There is no – I – in Team.” Either the whole team wins or nobody wins. There is no individual victory in a team, there is only team victory.

          To reinforce this understanding of team, players will all dress alike in a standard uniform and not as they feel like. They will separate themselves from spectators by riding on a team bus, not public transport. They will use private locker rooms at the stadium, not the public facilities. They will sit separately during the game from their fans, etc. etc.

          The Amish have all the markers of a team – they dress alike in regulation outfits, they have a rule book (Bible and Ordnung), they have coaches and umpires (ministers and bishops), they keep themselves separate from non-team members, they discipline members who break the rules, who ignore the ministers instructions, and sideline those who become too individually minded. The Amish also have a victory cup, heaven.

          The difference that exists between the Amish and a regular Christian is the same difference that exists between a person who plays a sport professionally and a person who plays it for fun. The one requires a 24/7 commitment and the other is a once in a while if I feel like it, please no pressure, commitment. The Amish are for all intents and purposes, 24/7 professional Christians with the same restrictions on individual freedom and pursuits as any member of a professional team would have.

          Strange how when companies or sport teams insist that there is no “I” in team, people just go along with it, yet when a religion holds to the same philosophy of no “I” in team, they are called a cult.

          In a nut shell, you cannot pursue both team unity and individual freedom simultaneously, they are two mutually exclusive pursuits.
          To choose the one necessitates a sacrifice of the other.

          1. Dirk, what a thoughtful correlation you’ve drawn here. I would never have thought of it this way. And I love your insightful conclusions at the end. The idea of not being able to have both community and freedom is sort of the conclusion I was reaching, and yet there is a part of me that wants to rebel against that. Perhaps it’s the part of American culture that promises you can have it all… if you want it badly enough. But I do think when we choose something in life, there are other choices that are no longer available to us.

            I really think your comment about what we accept and what we dub a “cult” is right on.

            Thank you so much for sharing these insights.

            Saloma

            1. Dirk

              Thanks Saloma for your kind comments, I do not think you have a rebellious nature, this leaves one bitter and twisted and this I do not find in you.
              I think your cause is wanderlust, the desire to see whats on the other side of the hill and not to be restricted by barriers that prevent you from investigating.

              A rebel finds pleasure in disagreeing with everything and everyone in their life, this leads to rejection by others and results in the rebel feeling bitter towards life and people.

              A person with wanderlust enjoys finding out and learning about new things and in understanding old things better.

              I think your books prove which of the two you are.

              (Perhaps there is another English word for wanderlust, but I can’t think of it)

              1. Dirk, thank you for your kind words. I think we all have a bit of a rebel inside us, don’t you? And as far as bitterness goes, I had to work through it, believe me. it was after several years of therapy that I felt I came out the other end. I don’t consider myself bitter now, though. I guess the old adage is true, that through our struggles we become either better or bitter. It takes work to become better.

                Blessings to you,
                Saloma

          2. Cathie segal

            Bonnet Strings

            I am so glad to see you have released a new book. I read lots of amish fiction, and I think reading books such as yours and Ira’s give readers a much better overall understanding of Amish life. Over the past few years a lot of the old amish fiction authors like Beverley Lewis, Beth Weissman have new authors following in their footsteps, but not always keeping stories right. “Why i left the Amish ” and “Bonnet” Strings “will help keep the newbies in line a bit more when thinking pure viction vs reality.

            you made an excellent comparison in this thread somewhere that i found interesting, correct and thought provoking. now I can’t find it 🙁 You had said that those Amish leavin the strict lower amish who only knew the Ordung might be comparable to ethnic Non practicing Jews. my husband was born and raised jewish, but surely can no longer be called a practicing Jew. however there are certain things he was raised to believe will always be a part of him, must are things like funerals, mitzva’s and 2 of the highest holidays. hope I make sense…………,..,, ….and hope i win a copy of bonnet strings.

            Cathie

            1. Hello Cathie,

              The comment about being like an ethnic, but not a practicing Jew was made in the post itself. It pertained to the question Erik asked about whether I think you can be Amish, but not live among them. Do you think that is an accurate description, based on your husband’s experience?

              Any chance I can be a counterbalance to all those bonnet fiction books, I will take! 🙂 For too long, these authors have been “getting it wrong.” And I include the early authors in that as well. I understand that the newer authors are basing their books on Lewis’s earlier books, but those stories were not that accurate to start with. So, they are now compounding the inaccuracies.

              Thank you for adding to the conversation.

              All best,
              Saloma

        2. I believe that some of the Amish raised children who did not join the church have decided to create a community in Tennessee, on Cane Creek (Pleasantville) I believe.

          I was told that this community embraces the children of Amish who did not choose to join the church but still wished to live Amish and be able to express their own individuality as well.

          One such family I know of there often shares much of their life there.. They work with and in the community and are happy to be a part of it. Misty shares her life.. in which she has her feet on both sides of the fence. https://www.facebook.com/pages/MistyPrepper/142248625836043

          Perhaps the more squarish pags should band together as these have done..

          1. Maybe create the community is incorrect… perhaps embraced by the community there is a more correct statement.

    11. Felicia

      I enjoy Saloma’s spirit that is reflected in the PBS documentaries. It would seem that she is such a matriarch to the Amish who have decided to leave their communities. I would certainly feel encouraged to know she was available would that be my choice. I have not read the first book of hers and would definitely love to do so along with this second book. Thank you for the opportunity.

      1. Felecia, thank you for your kind words. I’ve not helped anyone besides Anna, so I’m not sure I deserve the praise you’re giving me.

        I hope you enjoy both my books.

        Happy reading!

        Saloma

    12. Debbie Halcomb

      Interesting Book

      I have not read Saloma’s first book, something kept me from it. After hearing it left readers hanging or unsettled I am glad I didn’t. However, after reading this interview I think I would like to read it along with her new book.

      1. Hello Debbie,

        My advice is to read the second book first. People find it less disturbing than the first. Then if you feel you want more of the “backstory,” reading the first book will come naturally.

        I think what left people hanging is that they wanted more of the story. I had to end it somewhere, because the story would not all fit into one book. I now wish I would have continued it with a few more chapters. But that is water under the bridge.

        Happy reading!

        Saloma

    13. Emma Williams

      Contest

      Would love to win this book! I love Amish books!

      1. Emma, good luck with the contest… and I hope you get a chance to read “Bonnet Strings” one way or another.

        Saloma

    14. Trish in Indiana

      I have to run to get my taxes done, but I wanted to show up long enough to wish Saloma success with the new book (and to put in my own chance of winning a free copy!).

      All the best!

      1. Trish, thank you for your support. Good luck with the contest, and with a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.” Happy reading!

        Saloma

    15. Tom

      I read the first book and it was a very good read. I’m Looking forward to reading Bonnet Strings as a continuation of her first book Why I Left The Amish. Saloma Furlong has a way of writing and telling her story that made me not want to put down the first book.

      1. Hello Tom. I’m so glad you enjoyed my first book. I think you’ll certainly enjoy Bonnet Strings, and I hope you get a chance to read it.

        Saloma

    16. Dede

      I would be interested in reading this book. I enjoy reading books about the Amish and learning more about them.

      1. Dede, I hope you get a chance to read the book. I’d love to know what you think about it.

        Saloma

    17. Diane Paulson

      Thanks Saloma!

      I too would like to win the book. May the one that will benefit most from it win!

      1. Diane, that is a wonderful way to look at it. I hope you get to read the book, one way or another.

        Wishing you life’s best!

        Saloma

    18. Judith Dombrow

      I am new to this person and event. AZ a regular follower of Amish authors and their stories, I am eager to read the full story of Saloma. Thank you for the opportunity.

      1. Judith, I hope you get a chance to read Bonnet Strings.

        Have a wonderful week!

        Saloma

    19. Derek

      I found it very interesting that the most strict Amish churches (Swartzentruber) have the highest retention rates and the more liberal (Beachy) have the lowest (98% vs. 65%). Is the sense of community that much stronger in the strict districts than the more open ones? Or is it that once one gets a taste of the world they are more apt to leave? The numbers seem to indicate that. I would love to win the book too and thanks for sharing your experiences as it’s something that my kids will read too.

      1. Hello Derek,

        When I responded to your comment, I forgot to hit the “reply” button on your comment, so it’s down below somewhere. Here it is again:

        I’m going to take a stab at answering the question you pose, though it’s probably anyone’s guess what factors contribute to the different retention rates.

        I believe retention rates among the Amish have to do with how much people feel like they have a choice… those who feel they have a choice are more likely to leave. In the Swartzentruber Amish community, there is little perception of choice, and a whole lot of emphasis on obedience to the Ordnung. Yes, I do think there is a stronger sense of community among the Swartzentrubers, but stronger in this case I don’t think it necessarily better. People are more apt to feel trapped in that culture, because there is so little personal freedom. Their community is also their world… and the only world they know about. This is more true for the women than the men… the men have more interactions with the wider world.

        There are also other factors, but the Swartzentrubers have the tightest hold on their members, which I think is why they have such a high retention rate.

        I hope you have a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.”

        Saloma

      2. Osiah Horst

        Retention Rates and change

        Someone made the comment that the New Order Amish have “opened the floodgates of change” to the point where they cannot close them again. I feel that may be another accurate description of why they have a much lower retention rate than the Schwartzentruber. Change has been a way of life for the New Order Amish. In our plain group, we look at not only the currently proposed change, but how that change may affect other areas down the road. For example, I have suggested that we could have our marriage services in our meetinghouses, but others are very quick to point out that the change could lead to other changes like flowers for weddings, and the father of the bride walking the bride down the centre aisle of the meetinghouse, white wedding dresses etc.

        1. Marriage in Meetinghouses

          That’s very interesting Osiah. I imagine it’s something the Mennonites and few Amish who have allowed meetinghouses have to be careful about. I can see how it would be tempting to justify using it for other purposes which could pull a church away from its traditions in subtle ways like this. I’d think there would be a similar concern in Old Order Mennonite and the few Amish churches which do permit public electricity.

        2. Osiah, you make a good point about what my community would have called “drift.” The Old Order traditions are hard to maintain in a modern world. I imagine there will always be tensions between what will maintain the community versus what individuals might want.

          I have Conservative Mennonite cousins who still wear plain dress and the women wear coverings. They have a church house, where the women do have flowers and wear white dresses at weddings. It sounds like they have gone the route your congregation does not want to go.

          At the other extreme though, are the rules that forbid women from sifting flour, and forbid people from stopping off in a beautiful area for sightseeing in their horse and buggy on a Sunday afternoon on their way to visit someone. I think, at least in some Swartzentruber churches, they are getting stricter. I know in one case, there was a dessert dish that looked nice at a wedding, with fruit arranged over the top. The preachers decided that was “too fancy.” Somehow that seems petty and extreme to me. I cannot help myself from asking “But why?” And that is why I am here and not there… why questions don’t go well there, especially not coming from women.

          1. Osiah Horst

            Why Questions

            My son (when he was 25) asked some “why” questions and ended up going through 4 years of turmoil and eventually leaving our group for another Conservative Mennonite church. I (at 60 years of age) could have asked the very same questions of the same people (also 50 to 65 years of age)and would have had an interesting discussion with no consequences. I conclude that we older people become very defensive when younger people ask questions, not taking the time to consider the legitimacy of the question. We seem to assume that they are being rebellious when they just honestly want to understand.

            1. Osiah Horst

              Apologies to Saloma

              One more comment. None of what I have said in any of my posts in any way justifies, explains, excuses or condones the things you experienced. My mind almost refuses to consider the hideousness of what you experienced. I would like to think (and truly hope and pray) that what you experienced was in no way normal. All of my comments refer to “normal” situations. I in no way blame you for making the move you did! I would hope that you relating your experiences publicly would help expose other “similar situations” so that the mentally ill may get the required help, that the guilty may be prevented from abusing more, and that the innocent may be protected. For far too long, the plain people have tried to hide or ignore shameful problems, or have tried dealing with them on their own. May God bless you and David as you make your way through the rest of life!

            2. Osiah, in my first book, there is a moment (the night before I was baptized) when I realized that it was not important whether understood, it was only important that I obey. I wonder if “understanding” would lead to more people leaving? Or is it because we long to understand and cannot that we end up “straying”? I don’t know.

              Thank you for your understanding words in the comment below. I really appreciate that.

              Interesting what you say about the possibility of more people getting the help they need because of the exposure of what happened to me. I did not know until thirty years after I left the second time, when Rachael, the counselor I had in Ohio, travelled to my book launch in Vermont, that it was because I left the first time that my mother was encouraged to allow an intervention. Datt was soon diagnosed with both schizophrenia and bi-polar and was given medication for it. He ceased being violent after that (and for the rest of his life). Rachael told me that it was because of the success of his treatment that more Amish people were willing to seek help for their problems.

              As for the prevalence of the abuse among the Amish, I cannot know, nor can anyone else. You’d have to be a fly on the wall in every home at all times, which no one can do. But as you pointed out, the Plain communities often want to make things go away, so they ignore or look away from the problems they do have. And we know that covering up problems does not make them go away. So the insular nature of the community exacerbates issues such as abuse.

              But no matter what the reasons were for me leaving, I still lost a whole lot of good when I left the community. The deep and abiding faith that the Amish people strive to live out, and the way they come together in times of need are things I will always miss.

              Thank you so much for the blessings for David and me and may you be blessed in the same way.

              Saloma

              1. Bob Charles

                Saloma,

                I think this was the most poignant observation on leaving the Amish you have given yet. Truthful and balanced. All communities have their good and bad sides. I am glad in a way I did not grow up Amish but I feel I have missed so much. The closeness to each other, the emphasis on 24/7 living out the christian faith, and the simplicity of life. How much have we English gained by our freedom and questioning, and how much have we lost? I long for a community like the Amish and wish I could break the busyness and complexity of my life. I hope one day I can spend a week or two with an Amish family and learn from them a simple life, how to be in close community with others and to live my faith 24 hours a day.Thanks for sharing with us!!

                1. Hello Bob,

                  Thank you for your thoughts.

                  Spending a few weeks with an Amish family might be a nice thing, but I doubt what you learn would be anything close to what the community is about. And even if you did, it would likely not be “translateable” to the dominant culture, for the reasons Osiah and I have pointed out… we cannot have it both ways. Most of us in this culture are way too independent and value our choices and our freedom too much to sacrifice them for the sense of community the Amish have. The cohesion in an Amish community is based on people obeying the Ordnung, or set of church rules. Few people are willing to do that if they are used to having their freedom.

                  Finding an Amish family you can live with for a few weeks is a challenge, too. Most of the Amish want to live their lives separately from the world, and that makes them reticent to take people in. Especially with all the inaccurate depictions of them in the media in the past few years.

                  I can offer you the words of an Amishman when he wrote:

                  “If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself.”

                  I wish you all the best in finding ways to live a simple faith. I know it’s not easy in this culture where self-denial is not considered a virtue. And self-denial is necessary to live simply… the Amish have it right when considering carefully which technologies to adopt. They often complicate our lives, and they separate us from one another.

                  Many Blessings,
                  Saloma

                2. Dirk

                  Hi Bob, you like many others mention a desire to be like the Amish so you can live out your faith 24/7.
                  In the limited space of this post I hope you will understand what I am about to say.

                  The English understanding of living out ones faith is that of a faith derived from emotional fulfillment, of having a joy in the Lord. This is not the faith you will find if you join the Amish, where you imagine you will then be able to experience a constant emotional joy in the Lord. The Amish faith is one of obedience to the ordnung, not of emotional fulfillment.

                  It is humanly impossible to be in the same emotional state 24/7 for the rest of your life. But it is humanly possible to be obedient to rules and regulations for a lifetime, we all do this no matter what society we live.

                  The advantage of the ordnung for one with true faith, is that when one is having a low faith moment, the ordnung help to carry and support one. They become a shelter and a shield against temptations, an ark that carries one through the rough seas of spiritual challenges and questionings.

                  For those who do not have true faith, the ordnung become a prison cell, a burden, shackles that grieve them and add to their misery, just another dumb rule to follow.

                  For me, many times when I did not feel like being a good Christian, when my faith was too weak to keep me on the straight and narrow, the ordnung stepped in and held me tight where I could not hold myself.
                  When my faith was too weak to keep me from sin, the ordnung did.

                  This you would have experienced as a Christian, when something went wrong and you wanted to cuss, but you did not, because you know your church has forbidden it, taught you it was wrong. That is where your church’s ordnung carried you and prevented you from cussing. Or when secular friends at work offered you a beer and you said no, or when you won a free TV because you were the thousand customer of the day in the store and you had to turn it down, because the ordnung say – no TV’s allowed.

                  Now multiply this understanding a thousandfold and you will have an insight into what the Amish faith is all about.
                  It is not the emotional faith of the Charismatics, but a faith of daily obedience. As Jesus said “pick up your cross daily and follow Me.” In a thousand and one ways, when sin presents itself, the ordnung have already determined how you shall react.

                  Every Christian church has a certain amount of ordnungs, rules about what you can and can’t do as a Christian of their fold, the Amish just have a whole lot more. But it is this whole lot more that allows the Amish to be aware of God 24/7, because He is ultimately the author behind the ordnungs. “Come out from among them and be ye separate sayith the Lord thy God”, “Be ye no longer conformed to the ways of the world”, and the ordnung will provide you with a list of a hundred and one ways to live out these commands.

                  Every time one is obedient to an ordnung, one is reminded that one’s choice to be obedient is pleasing to God, for He commands obedience.
                  2John 9. This is what it means to be Amish. To know that a life of obedience is pleasing to God.

                  1. Bob Charles

                    Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. I see a lot of the Amish life in the monastic life. Certain clothes to wear, rules to keep, order, simplicity. The idea that following the Ordnung as a safety net and also that following it is pleasing to God makes sense to me. Rules are not necessarily a bad thing, they keep us from following a path that is harmful. Perhaps that is why the Law was so important to the Jews. I see the value in the Ordnung. Thanks to you and Saloma for your comments. May you both be richly blessed!

                    1. Trish in Indiana

                      It’s funny you say this, Bob, because I was just about to post this thought: As a Catholic, I see a certain similarity between Amish life and what we would call “Religious life” (with a capital “R”). That doesn’t mean “religious” in the usual sense, but is a technical term for communities that live under a particular Rule of life. Much of what those who find Amish life fulfilling say about the ordnung strikes me as similar to the role that the Rule and/or Constitutions may play in Religious communities.

                      An important difference, however, is that no Catholic is born a member of a Religious community; this is something we believe only a minority of people are called to by God. After discerning that one may have such a call or “vocation,” a person would apply to enter the particular community, and members of the community would determine whether the candidate seemed like a good “fit.” If so, they would enter a program called “novitiate.” The novices live in a group together under the direction of an experienced member appointed by the community to teach them their way of life. A person can leave, or be asked to leave, at any time during novitiate if it just isn’t working out. Only after at least a year of formation does a person make a commitment to the community, and then it is only a temporary one (such as three years). Most communities do ultimately require a permanent commitment, but by then a person has had several years to live the life and be reasonably sure about it.

                      I think some young people enter novitiate with stars in their eyes, expecting to be on that emotional/spiritual “high” all the time, but they soon find out Religious life is not about that. It’s about day-to-day adherence to a particular way of life in the very concrete context of a community of ordinary, flawed human beings as a fellow flawed human being.

                      Of course, another major difference between Amish communities and Catholic Religious communities is that members of Religious communities (including monasteries) commit to celibacy. All the more reason no one is “born” a Dominican, a Franciscan, a Benedictine, etc.!

                      1. Trish, these are important distinctions. David pointed that out the other day, too… that to choose to obey the rules of a religious order, as you point out, is different from being born into the Amish and be expected to pretty blindly follow the rules of the church and the parents, who are members of the church from the time they can understand what that means. Obedience right from the start.

                        Thank you for offering us these insights.

                        Many blessings of peace,

                        Saloma

                    2. Bob, I certainly do not have all the answers, and I only point out that obedience is the cohesion in any given Amish community. I’m not necessarily advocating that (after all, I am here, and not there!).

                      It sounds like Dirk may have much more experience with “thinking Amish” than I do… I only lived that life for 23 years… and I’ve been out of it for 33 years now.

                      Thank you for your blessings, and may you also be blessed.

                      Saloma

          2. Dirk

            Hi if I could be the devils advocate for that preacher who banned the fancy dessert dish.

            I think he was very wise in his decision, the dish in itself was of little importance, what was of importance was the mindset of the person who felt that the fancy dessert dish was necessary. That the plain and simple needed to become fancy and flashy.

            A cancerous tumor that grows and kills starts with a single mutant cell. A church that falls starts with a single fancy dessert dish at one wedding, which then needs fancy plates to accompany it at the next wedding and fancy glasses at the one after that. Within five generations that fancy dessert dish unchecked would have killed the church.

            It is that old story – for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the message was lost, for want of the message the war was lost, for want of the war the Kingdom was lost.

            The elders are the first line of defense in making sure that not even a single nail is lost. That fancy dessert dish was a lose nail that needed to be put right. And the preacher did. Good for him.

    20. AGB

      Community

      I’m excited to add 2 more books to my list of must reads.

      How true for any culture/faith that we need a strong sense of community. Without how does one survive? I, myself have been blessed with many solid friendships creating an honest caring community built on our faith and trust.

      Thank you for your honesty and courage to share your life’s story.

      1. Hello AGB,

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am very interested in knowing more about your community. I think it is a true blessing to find a sense of community and also have a sense of freedom. It sounds like you have both.

        I hope you get a chance to read Bonnet Strings.

        Have a blessed week,

        Saloma

        1. AGB

          community

          Saloma,

          I’ve been totally blessed to have acquired a family of friends who are living our faith with action not just words. (Wish we could all live in closer proximity to each other.) The freedom to be ourselves with accountability to each other in love with gentleness, humility, etc…. Most fortunate to have some DNA family in my circle too. Then I have rings around my solid circle, practicing boundary setting and whom to allow into which circle. Hope this isn’t confusing but pictures always help me with explanations ;0)

          Wish I had understood the Grace & Mercy aspects of faith earlier in life but it is oh so wonderful to have it now!

    21. Hello Derek,

      I’m going to take a stab at answering the question you pose, though it’s probably anyone’s guess what factors contribute to the different retention rates.

      I believe retention rates among the Amish have to do with how much people feel like they have a choice… those who feel they have a choice are more likely to leave. In the Swartzentruber Amish community, there is little perception of choice, and a whole lot of emphasis on obedience to the Ordnung. Yes, I do think there is a stronger sense of community among the Swartzentrubers, but stronger in this case I don’t think it necessarily better. People are more apt to feel trapped in that culture, because there is so little personal freedom. Their community is also their world… and the only world they know about. This is more true for the women than the men… the men have more interactions with the wider world.

      There are also other factors, but the Swartzentrubers have the tightest hold on their members, which I think is why they have such a high retention rate.

      I hope you have a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.”

      1. Derek

        It was said by one of the Amish persons in the film that “if you loose obedience you loose the church, Amen”. Is this really true? Do the people who leave the church want to be out of the religion or just out of the restrictive Ordnungs? Or is the Ordnungs part of the religion and that is why it’s either all in or all out.

        I can’t wait to read your book.

        Thanks!

        1. Dirk

          Hi Derek, to answer your questions
          ““if you loose obedience you loose the church”. Is this really true?”
          Yes, obedience is the tracks upon which the church runs, if you lose obedience you lose the church.

          “Do the people who leave the church want to be out of the religion or just out of the restrictive Ordnungs?”
          Each individual is different, for those who want out of religion they will often go to the opposite extreme and become very secular and decadent in lifestyle by Amish standards, for those who want religion with less restrictions, they will join another church. It all depends upon the reason for leaving and the age of the person leaving. Generally teenagers will be less interested in religion and more into decadence.

          “Or is the Ordnungs part of the religion and that is why it’s either all in or all out”.
          The Bible is what makes one a Christian and the ordnung is what makes one Amish. While one can be a Christian without the ordnung, one cannot be Amish without them.

      2. Derek

        It was said by one of the Amish persons in the film that “if you loose obedience you loose the church, Amen”. Is this really true? Do the people who leave the church want to be out of the religion or just out of the restrictive Ordnungs? Or is the Ordnungs so part of the religion that it’s either all in or all out?

        I can’t wait to read your book.

        Thanks!

        1. Derek, I pondered this very question in my latest blog post. I don’t think I have the answer to this question, but I do offer my thoughts: http://salomafurlong.com/aboutamish/2014/03/annas-choice/

          And now you will be left wondering the same way you were when you asked the question… sorry I don’t have the answer to this one.

          Saloma

        2. Osiah Horst

          Response to Derek

          Derek, there really is no way to have “the best of both worlds”. You cannot have both strong community and strong individual rights. By agreeing to be part of the community, you cannot other than accept the rules of the community. Or to use Dirk’s analogy, the hockey player who plays for himself, and ignores the good of the team will not last. When a person joins the armed forces, individual rights give way for the good of the body.

    22. Lyndsae

      I greatly enjoyed Saloma Miller’s first book and look forward to reading Bonnet Strings. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us.

      1. Lyndsae, with readers and supporters like you, it is well worth it. In fact, it confirms that I am doing the right thing by sharing my story. Likely you have a story too… everyone does. Stories help us find our place in the world, and it’s how we learn from one another.

        I hope you get a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.”

        Saloma

    23. Bob

      Religious and Cultural Metamorphosis

      Saloma,
      It is so good to read your blog post and your responses to readers’ comments as shown above. Through your first book and your appearances in televised documentaries I feel almost as if I have gotten to know you. I guess that is a testamony to how well you express yourself.
      Over the past year I have undergone a cultural change with parallels to your own journey from Amish to English life. Unlike your path, however, mine has been easier and less heart-rending. And it has been at the far other end of the religious spectrum. I have moved from many years as part of a very liberal Unitarian community to a more mainstream (although still open and accepting) protestant Christian church and the new circle of cherished and trusted friends that came with it.
      While this may seem to have little in common with the struggles of someone leaving the Amish, it does make me resonate with the encounters your share with the world. I look forward to reading your new book.

      1. Bob, it is very gratifying to read your comments. You probably do know me pretty well… I am an open book… quite literally.

        I am always amazed at the ways in which people relate to my story/journey. I am glad that my story resonated with yours, and I wish you many blessings along the roads you travel.

        Saloma

    24. Erin

      I would love the opportunity to win this book. The title immediately caught my attention as I see some Amish women with their bonnets tied in the front and others loosely tied behind their backs, like the photo on the cover.

      1. Erin, I hope you have the opportunity to read Bonnet Strings. The untied covering strings tend to signify less strict communities. But even in those communities where you will see the untied strings during the week, the women will tie them for more formal occasions such as church services, weddings, and funerals. So open covering strings are more casual.

        Have a wonderful week,

        Saloma

    25. Truth or fiction?

      Saloma,
      I just completed “Jacob’s Choice” and Beverly Lewis’ “History of Lancaster County” trilogy. I watched the PBS presentation, and have become most interested in the new books out about the Amish. I find myself wondering about how much of this is fiction. I seem to understand that your work is based on actuality. I like reading about the Amish. Can you direct me to good nonfiction, not that I will stop reading your stories, but I like to know what is true? I would like to win “Bonnet Strings”.

      1. Nancy, my recommendations would be based upon whether you want to read memoir or scholarly works, and if scholarly, what subjects interest you.

        Jacob’s Choice is based on a true story about one of my ancestors, but it is fictionalized, because there was not enough primary evidence to write it as non-fiction. Only the author would be able to tell you how much of it is fiction.

        I know nothing about Beverly Lewis’s trilogy.

        If you let me know what kind of non-fiction you’re looking for, I’m happy to recommend books to you.

        Take good care,
        Saloma

    26. Marge nistler

      Bonnet Strings

      I truly enjoyed the first book and just ordered the second one. Can hardly wait until it arrives! Keep up the good work.

      1. Marge, thank you for your support and readership. The pleasure is mine!

        Saloma

    27. Saloma, you are an inspiration. I have seen both films, and you are awe-inspiring. No, I am not Amish, but I felt like that I went through that hurt with you from watching you. I’m not doing well explaining this, other than to say, I truly felt what you were conveying. I am looking forward to reading your book so much. God bless you and David. I think I am alot like you in the fact that I open my heart to people that need me. That has sometimes backfired on me, but I feel like if I can help someone that needs help, that’s what God would have us do. Thank you for your courage and your big heart and your wonderful soul.

      1. Debbie, it sounds like you are a kindred spirit. Yes, when we lay ourselves open, we can be hurt. But what was Jesus’s message, if it wasn’t that suffering is part of this life? We would have a lonely existence if we did not share of ourselves with one another. And the rewards outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

        May love and light shine on you always.

        Saloma

    28. Ronda Ferry

      Bonnet Strings

      Have read many Amish books but havn’t read any of this author would love to win a book and see her writing style. Thanks for contest.

      1. Hello Rhonda,

        I hope the books don’t disappoint. Happy reading!

        Saloma

    29. sharon c

      SO EXCITED~

      I think your first book was wonderful “gut” I am a faithful reader of Amish Fiction and love to read of the “real” stories behind the Amish shield! Good luck and looking forward to book # 3???

      1. Hello Sharon,

        So glad you found my first book to be wunderbar (the way the real Amish say it). :o)

        There may be a book three, but right now life is too full to think about it.

        Thank you for your readership!

        Saloma

    30. Gary Counterman

      Thank you, Saloma and Erik for discourse that teaches us and helps us discover others and the wider world. I look forward to reading “Bonnet Strings”, I’ve a feeling this continued personal story touches ones heart strings as your life story always has. As always, all the best in all you do!

      1. Thanks Gary and I should say thanks to Saloma too for her responses on this thread. I’ve been a little out of the loop lately due to a medical issue so am glad for the contributions from everyone on this interesting topic.

        1. Gary Counterman

          Hi Erik,

          Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather, must be in the air… I’ve got a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up happening, OUCH! Hope you’re feeling better yourself very soon; Spring’s coming (I hope?!) and we need to be fit to welcome it.

          Take good care,

          Gary

          1. Thanks Gary, it’s actually someone in the family with the medical issue, I am healthy as far as I can tell. I hope that flare up isn’t as bad as it sounds. With snow falling outside in NC today, am about ready for spring as well.

      2. Dear Gary,

        Thank you very much for your compliments. I hope you enjoy the story.

        Have a wonderful week!

        Saloma

    31. Mary Miller

      I really enjoyed reading your first book, and now look forward to Bonnet Strings! If I don’t win, I will definitely buy it! 🙂

      1. Mary, thank you for your desire and commitment to reading Bonnet Strings. I hope you enjoy the book.

        Have a great week!

        Saloma

    32. Linda Laws

      Bonnet Strings!!

      Salome I read your first book and enjoyed learning about you. I also enjoyed watching you on PBS!
      I read a lot about the Amish. We go to Middlefield in the warm months.
      It would be great reading another book about you.
      It’s nice reading Amish fiction but I do love to read more about the real life.
      Thank you so much for sharing about your life! I’m sorry things didn’t work out for Anna, but it was her decision to go home. So young.

      Blessings, Linda

      1. Hello Linda,

        Thank you for your compliments.

        What takes you to Middlefield? Do you live in Ohio?

        I believe you are one of the growing number of people who are yearning for real life Amish stories. At least I hope so :o) !

        It may be that things are working out for Anna. it sure would be nice to know that.

        Saloma

    33. Jenny

      I enjoyed reading “Why I left the Amish” last week. I’d love to win a copy of “Bonnet Strings”, I am looking forward to reading it.

      1. Hello Jenny,

        Thank you for your comments. I hope you get a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.”

        Have a wonderful week,

        Saloma

    34. Loretta Shumpert

      Though I have seen your first book in many places I have yet to read it. So would love to read both of your books.

      1. Hello Loretta,

        I hope you get a chance to read both my books. I’d love to know what you think about them.

        Enjoy!

        Saloma

    35. I would like to make a comment of my own here. Thank you, Erik, for this post and for prompting this thought-provoking discourse. Really well done.

      And I would also like to thank all who have left your understanding comments. I hope you’ll visit me on my blog also.

      And finally I’d like to say that if I missed any of your comments, I didn’t do it intentionally… there are so many wonderful comments. I forgot that when you start responding to Erik’s readers, it’s a full-time job. You are a great group.

      I will continue to respond to comments as they come in… for this minute, I’m “caught up” as far as I know.

      I hope Spring shows her beautiful face soon wherever you are!

      Saloma

      1. Trish in Indiana

        Saloma, don’t feel like you have to respond to this particular comment: I just want to thank you for taking the time to respond so warmly and thoughtfully to everyone who has posted something here (even when my first one was just a quick “wanted to enter the contest”!).

    36. Lee Ann

      Comment on the book give-away

      I really enjoyed the Amish: Shunned programme, especially the parts about Anna and Ms. Furlong. The story of Anna helped me understand, more than any other, the pull between the cultures – perhaps because she came from such a conservative community. As one who longs for so much of the life the Amish offer, I have had a very difficult time understanding why anyone, fortunate enough to be born into this close-knit, family-oriented community, would want to leave. Anna’s story helped me understand one person’s experience, and has made me interested in reading more about the pull to the more dominant society (one I find to be rather cold and impersonal). I would very much enjoy reading of Ms. Furlong’s experience. As a psychologist (and a fellow Smithie), I am forever curious about human nature and the motivations for behavioral choices.

      1. Lee Ann, it is great to hear from you! I agree, the dominant culture can be impersonal… and that is the biggest loss when we leave. But that sense of community comes at a cost… at least for those of us who cannot help asking why questions. Education is one of those costs.

        I hope you read my books, and then I hope you let me know your take on them. It sounds like we have lots in common.

        Wishing you life’s best,

        Saloma

        1. Lee Ann

          Thanks for responding

          Saloma,
          Thank you for responding to my message. I look forward to reading your books, and will, indeed, let you know my thoughts – I am sure I will find them fascinating reading.
          All the best,
          Lee Ann

    37. Mary Manna

      A Foot in Both Worlds

      Saloma, you and I had exchanged a few emails when your first book had come out. And now, I can’t wait to read Bonnet Strings. In some ways, though my story is quite different from yours, I left my own former world and ventured outward. In another aspect, I have long loved the Amish, and have a “sister” in Lancaster County. Our families embrace each other as family. We make every effort to spend time together as sisters and as family.

      Your world, past and present, impacts me…the new and the old. My foot continues to be in a world I left behind in that will always be a part of me as you also have stated…Your Amish ways will always be a part of you.

      I have loved the sense of community with my Amish family, and oddly enough, it reminds me of the community I left behind so long ago … some things remain forever unchanged and are always a part of us.

      Actually, I am delighted to hear how you see life both as an individual and as part of a community whole. I see balance in that and wholeness. I like that.

      God bless you, Saloma.

      Mary

    38. mb welch

      eager to read

      I loved hearing Saloma’s story on the second PBS special ( I still need to go back and watch the first one online). I am much more a book person than a TV person, so can’t wait to READ her story.

      1. MB, thank you for your enthusiasm. I love it! I can’t wait for you to READ my story, either! And I hope you’ll let me know how you like it!

        Happy Spring!

        Saloma

    39. Patsy Houston

      Would love to read this book! What is your relationship with the Amish today?

      1. Hello Patsy,

        My relationship to the Amish today? I honestly don’t know. Back when Mem and Datt were still alive, I would go back and visit at least once a year. Nowadays my connections to my community are lessening, especially because neither of my brothers are in touch (by their choice.)

        I cannot imagine I would be welcomed back as I was when my parents died, now that I’ve exposed as much as I have in my books. This exposure is not usually welcomed.

        I’ve chosen to give my family and community lots of space since my first book launched. I chose not to have book talks in that area out of respect for their feelings.

        I hope you get to read my book.

        Regards,

        Saloma

    40. Hello Mary,

      My memory is not what it was when I was young and in my prime. I’m forgetting which community life you left.

      I’m gratified to know that you relate to my life/story. And I certainly relate to to the idea of having a foot in both worlds.

      Bless you too, Mary, and I hope you enjoy the book.

      Saloma

    41. Lynn

      Thank you for sharing your life with us through your books. Living about 30 minutes north of Middlefield, I have a special interest in your book. I have spent many summer afternoons at the Mespo store pictured, sitting on the steps eating ice cream, watching the Amish buggies go by. I
      Win or not, I am looking forward to reading your latest book.
      Lynn

      1. Hello Lynn,

        Thank you for sharing your connection to the area.

        Interesting story behind that photo. Erik provided that photo. After he posted it, I mentioned that my mother was born in Mespo and she spent her younger years there. Erik didn’t know that when he psoted the photo. How’s that for serendipity?

        Thank you so much for sharing your enthusiasm for my story.

        Take good care,
        Saloma

    42. Juanita Cook

      I’d love to win this book. I hope whoever does win it really enjoys reading it. It sounds like a wonderful book.

      1. Juanita, good luck with the giveaway… I hope so too 🙂

        Have a great week!

        Saloma

    43. Alice Mary

      I’m sure I’m not the only one here who, when seeing you on PBS in “The Amish: Shunned”, felt they were viewing a friend. I’ve read your 1st book, and think I can somewhat understand about straddling the line between 2 worlds—Amish and English. I’m a former Catholic, yet I still cling to certain practices (like the rosary). I am drawn to religions where women are given a more “authoritative” role in the “church” community. Someday, there may actually BE a religion like that, where I’ll feel “at home”. ’til then, I keep hoping and praying for a peaceful life with my loved ones.

      Needless to say, I would love to win the book, but if I don’t, I’ll certainly purchase it.

      All the best to you,, Saloma, and David, too.

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary, I understand your feelings. David grew up Catholic, and he hasn’t been practicing the faith for years. Now he finds himself reading about monastic life from many different points of view… right now he’s reading Hildegard von Bingen, a woman mystic from the twelfth century.

        David actually found something interesting in his readings. The Amish base their Ordnung on the Schleitheim Confession, which has seven articles. These are pretty much adopting the Benedictine Rule. It was Michael Sattler, a former monk, who chaired the committee that wrote the Confession.

        For years I had no idea there were similarities between monastic life and the Amish.

        Many blessings along your journey. I am right there, walking alongside you.

        Saloma

    44. Ann Whitaker

      Comment on Saloma Miller Furlong on Bonnet Strings (Giveaway)

      I enjoyed seeing you recently in the PBS special“The Amish: Shunned.” The older I get, the more I believe there is no one perfect religion. I am an Episcopal priest, but often find myself drawn to aspects from other Christian traditions, including Anabaptistism. I am blessed to have Amish and Mennonite friends, as well as friends in many other traditions–which adds richly to my own.

      Grateful for your frank discussions and your openness about your own life’s journey, and your life with David. I’d like to win your book, but if not, I’ve placed it on my “wish list.” Blessings to you.

      Peace,
      Ann

      1. Dear Ann,

        Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I think you’re right… religions are made up of humans, which means there will always be faults. Unless we look for absolute answers and accept them just the way they come to us as one religious leader may interpret them from the Bible, we’ll likely always be on a spiritual quest… pondering the mysteries of our world and the universe without finding (or needing to find) absolute answers. One of my non-religious professors at Smith once made remarks in his astronomy class that I find more spiritual than many messages I’ve heard in church. He said there are an infinite number of mysteries in the universe. My mind cannot even comprehend the word “infinite.” How then, can I comprehend God?

        Blessings to you as well. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you get a chance to read “Bonnet Strings.” I would love to know what you think of it.

        Saloma

    45. Learning

      Since we are hoping to help young Amish, I am learning all I can and would really love to read you works!

      1. Melissa, I hope you get a chance to read my books.

        Saloma

        1. I am hoping to! I have a vacation coming up in April!!

    46. Always Laugh in Your Class Photo!

      I am like so many readers…inexplicably drawn to anything Amish. I grew up on a farm with workhorses and homemade “everything”. But the Amish seem to be a world of opposites, simple and complex. I want to know everything about them but I feel a sense of guilt. Such an invasion of privacy, but I just can’t help wanting to understand them more. It’s as if they know a great secret truth and we English have missed the boat. It’s so easy to romanticize about their world but I know that Saloma’s experiences will invite us to seek a deeper understanding. I can’t wait for that invitation.

      1. Lucy, your title made me smile. Little did I know on the day of my second-grade photo, how I was smiling into my future! That photo was on every loaf of bread when I was baking professionally in Shelburne, Vermont. And now it is selling my books… that little impish, toothless grin.

        You are invited… my books are open to you. I hope you enjoy taking the journey.

        Many blessings,

        Saloma

    47. Mary

      Community Life

      It is strange how all of this impacts me. I was a Roman Catholic for the first 27 years of my life, went to Catholic schools all the way through, and became a nun, to boot. So, I lived “community” as a way of life. And while I “kicked the habit” eventually, and sought my Christ-centered spirituality elsewhere, community as well as individuality has found a marriage within me, I too wrote and published my own book on some of these struggles. Today, I am a pastor in a non-denominational church. I have Amish “family” in Lancaster County, whom I love with all of my heart, and they me. It is in part for me that very sense of community that attracts me so much to them among many other things, and reminds me so much of my own community life. So very much of what is Amish reminds me of those days and while I know it was right for me to leave, there is still for me at some level an ongoing love affair with community.

      As I read your books, Saloma, so much of what you relate has been a part of my own history. Amazing the similarities in fact!

      Indeed, there is for me “a foot in both worlds!”

      Blessings,

      Mary

      1. Mary, I love hearing the ways in which my story intersects other people’s. I know just what you mean, that longing for community. So glad you have found, at least in some measure, that sense of community with your Amish “family.” A foot in both worlds is a good way to put it. Some years ago, I would not have described it this way, but I do now. Funny how we come nearly full-circle as we get older.

        Now I’m curious… what book did you write?

        Thank you for stopping by and for sharing of your story.

        Blessings to you, too!

        Saloma

        1. Mary

          Community Life

          I sent my book to you, Saloma, I believe, shortly after you wrote your first one, and we emailed back and forth a few times. My book: “From Mayhem to Manna” (Pastor Mary Manna)

          I couldn’t wait to “win” your “Bonnet Strings” so I’m reading it now on my iPad and oh, my goodness, commonalities to be sure!

          Mary

    48. Hello Mary,

      Oh, I’m vaguely remembering. My communications are a blur since my first book came out. I bet I still have your book on my shelf. I’ll have to find it are re-read.

      So glad you’re enjoying the read!

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Saloma

    49. Mary

      Community Life

      Welcome, Saloma! I understand the “vaguely remembering!” Happens to me a lot!

      Mary

    50. Leanna

      Saloma, your first book was thought provoking. Looking forward to reading more – would love to win the book.