Breakaway Amish: Growing Up with the Bergholz Beard Cutters

Johnny Mast. Herald, $15.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-5138-0021-9
Mast, who grew up in a small Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio, under the leadership of his grandfather, tells the story of his community’s spiral into spiritual abuse and violence, specifically the forcible cutting of beards and hair of other Amish who had left the community. The book is both a coming-of-age story—with Mast gradually perceiving more truth about his environment and choosing to leave—and a cautionary tale about religious and familial authority run amok as his grandfather commands increasingly abusive actions with complete autonomy. The story could be used as a template of warning signs for cults everywhere. Unfortunately, Mast chooses a flat, no-nonsense tone and avoids diving deep into his or anyone else’s motivations, even as he goes from helping to cover up an attack to testifying against the attackers. Some readers will be interested in the light this shines on the Bergholz community’s history and its deviance from the values the Amish are known for, but such a fascinating topic deserves better writing and more psychological insight than this book provides. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/09/2016
Release date: 08/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 174 pages - 978-1-5138-0104-9
Ebook - 978-1-5138-0022-6
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