'Bonnet Strings': Memoir of woman making her way translates to all

When Saloma Miller Furlong was 20 years old she made the difficult decision to leave the Amish and move from Ohio to Vermont to begin a new life. The details that decision and adventure in her poignant new memoir “Bonnet Strings.”

Furlong’s time in Vermont in the late 1970s is filled with charming wonder, as she delights in working at Pizza Hut, going on dates and living at the YWCA. However, after four months her family arrives on her doorstep and Furlong reluctantly agrees to return home.

This might seem to be the end of Furlong’s adventures, but it’s actually just the beginning. For the next two years while she is teaching and building a life back in her Amish community, she maintains a correspondence with David, a young man she dated in Vermont. Furlong once again finds herself torn between two worlds and the story of her friendship – and love – with David is a romantic tale for the ages.

Told in an accessible, chatty style, Bonnet Strings is a heartwarming tale of a young woman at a crossroads in life. The narrative voice is largely that of an adult looking back with the gift of hindsight; however, letters from Furlong’s years of correspondence provide welcome glimpses of Furlong as a young 20-something, giving an honest portrayal of her personal questions and struggles.

While readers may be fascinated to learn about life in an Amish community, perhaps more striking are the passages where Furlong reveals the ways the Amish community is like our own, as members face mental illness, depression, teen pregnancy and crisis of faith.

Bonnet Strings is certainly a love story, but it is also the story of a young woman learning to make her way in the world — something women from all faith backgrounds can appreciate.

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