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Book Review: "Bonnet Strings", a frank memoir of courage

Special to The Recorder

“Bonnet Strings” by Saloma Miller Furlong (Herald Press, 337 pages, $15.95)

At some point in our lives, most of us have felt conflicts between our sense of self and the culture in which we live. Few of us have experienced these conflicts as strongly as Saloma Miller Furlong of Sunderland.

Furlong’s first memoir, “Why I Left the Amish,” discussed her childhood in an Amish community in northeastern Ohio — a childhood in which she endured brutality from her father and brother and often felt stifled by the conventions and rules of her home culture.

That book concluded with her decision to leave the community at the age of 20 and move to Burlington, Vt.

Her new book, “Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds,” begins where the last book ended, with the author’s departure for Vermont. Young Saloma Miller finds a place to live at the YWCA, makes friends, gets a job as a waitress and plans to further her education.

Her Amish life still has power over her, however. Family members and neighbors journey to Vermont and persuade her to return to her home community.

One knows at the beginning of the book how it will end. In fact, the author’s non-Amish husband, David Furlong (whom she met in Burlington), contributes several essays describing his early impressions of his wife and her struggle. The book focuses on Saloma Furlong’s journey rather than her destination.

She writes honestly and movingly about her experiences both in her home community and away from it. When she returns to Ohio from Vermont, she negotiates a degree of independence for herself. Although she lives with other Amish neighbors, she is no longer compelled to reside at home.

Nevertheless, she feels increasingly alienated by the activities and restrictions around her. She struggles with an eating disorder — and with her own identity. Eventually, she manages to break away again, this time permanently and on her own terms. She is running to a life rather than away from one.

Readers will sympathize with Furlong. They will also admire her courage in creating a new life for herself and her frankness in discussing painful subjects and moments in her life.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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