Out of This World: A Women's Life Among the Amish

Overview

When a severe allergic illness dictated that she grow all her own food, Mary Swander found herself living in a former one-room Iowa schoolhouse in the midst of the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi. Out of This World is a simple but profound memoir, shaped by the course of a farmer's year, in which Swander celebrates her time among the Amish people, explores what it means to be a lone woman homesteader at the end of the twentieth century, and ponders the quiet spirituality born of a life on the ...
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Overview

When a severe allergic illness dictated that she grow all her own food, Mary Swander found herself living in a former one-room Iowa schoolhouse in the midst of the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi. Out of This World is a simple but profound memoir, shaped by the course of a farmer's year, in which Swander celebrates her time among the Amish people, explores what it means to be a lone woman homesteader at the end of the twentieth century, and ponders the quiet spirituality born of a life on the land. Rich in down-to-earth humor, deft narrative, and a deep love of the land and its people, Out of This World is also the history of Iowa settlers and of their land, the Great Plains. Examining her connection with her Amish neighbors and a larger human community, Swander explores the complex relationship between self-sufficiency and the ability to abandon the self to a larger goal, between the sweep of Iowa's history and the shape of its present, between human life and the natural landscape upon which it depends.

When a severe allergic illness dictated that she grow all her own food, Swander found herself living in the midst of a large Amish community in Iowa. In this simple but profound memoir, she celebrates her time among the Amish, explores what it means to be a lone woman homesteader at the end of the 20th century, and ponders the quiet spirituality born of a life on the land.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The medical condition described as ``environmental illness,'' severe allergies to most pollutants, was the catalyst that forced Swander, a poet from the Midwest, to seek an alternate lifestyle. Happily, she found it in an Amish settlement in Iowa, where she lives in a one-room country schoolhouse and grows ``my crops in a 20-by-40 plot just outside the door.'' A life of eloquent simplicity is celebrated in these pages; she travels the road back to health with humor and ingenuity, as, for example, her incorporation of frogs' legs into a spare diet. Swander's acknowledgment of her gifts-the comfort of farmyard company and the neighborly Amish who never fail her-parallels an inner journey of a solitary who finds a place called home. This poet's traverse of a farmer's year forms an inspirational memoir of a modern pioneer woman. (July)
Kathleen Hughes
After a severe allergic reaction had left her with the symptoms of environmental illness (unable to tolerate the pollutants and food found in the modern world), Swander decided to change her lifestyle and move into a one-room Iowa schoolhouse on the outskirts of an Amish community. Her book is an account of that lifestyle change and the strength and self-sufficiency she developed as a result. Completely incapable of stomaching commercially grown food, Swander existed at first on a diet of roadkill, frog legs, and yucca and other exotic plants. Slowly, with the help of her Amish neighbors, she became proficient at growing her own organic fruits and vegetables, improving her health both physically and spiritually. The story of her illness and recovery is fascinating, but readers who are expecting an immersion into Amish culture will be disappointed. The references to the Amish are merely anecdotal; the true gist of this book is the reawakening of Swander's spirituality, brought about by her close association with her down-to-earth, no-frills neighbors. Although interesting for its portrayal of the hardship and determination of those choosing a more primitive lifestyle, the story, unfortunately, often gets bogged down in New-Agetype introspection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670858088
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 7/28/1995
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.85 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Swander
Mary Swander
A Distinguished Professor of English at Iowa State University, Mary Swander has written several poems, essays, and books, none more profoundly stirring than her personal account of healing after a car accident, The Desert Pilgrim.

Good To Know

In our interview, Swander shared some fun facts with us:

"I live in an old one-room Amish schoolhouse."

"I have a dog who can answer the phone."

"I am a licensed massage therapist and a licensed hypnotherapist."

"I play the clawhammer banjo."

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    1. Hometown:
      Ames, Iowa
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 5, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Carroll, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.A., Iowa State University, 1973; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1976
    2. Website:

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