Position:Book review

**** Rumspringa To Be or Not to Be Amish By Tom Shachtman Life outside ordnung.

Most teenagers have a wild phase. The Amish tradition of rumspringa codifies such adolescent rebellion: at the age of 16, Amish youth become exempt from the strict rules, or ordnung, of the faith in order to decide whether to join the outside, American world or be baptized into the Amish Mennonite Church. That approximately 80 percent choose to eschew drinking, baseball, pop music, and technology in favor of the rigorous life of faith and family testifies to Amish convictions and traditions. It's also a reminder that, with only eighth-grade educations and a fleeting, often drunken indoctrination into American culture, Amish youth might be ill prepared to make such a complex decision.

North Point. 286 pages. $25. ISBN: 086547687X

Christian Science Monitor ****1/2

"Shachtman is like a maestro, masterfully conducting an orchestra of history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and journalism together in a harmonious and evocative symphony of all things Amish.... The interviews artfully illustrate the high degree of vulnerability of these inexperienced, indoctrinated youth as they wade out into the American mainstream eager to experiment with their newfound freedom." RICHARD HORAN

Newsday ****

"The author's reporting is so scrupulous and open-minded that the mainstream reader can almost appreciate the punitive nature of the Amish practice of shunning, where, to 'keep the church pure,' the community turns its collective back on a member who has broken rules, which include everything from disobeying biblical law to using too much electricity to run farm equipment." KAREN KARBO

Wall Street Journal ****

"Mr. Shachtman's wonderfully rich portrait and history of the Amish as a people and a faith helps to show why one of the strictest religious communities...

To continue reading