NORTH ANDOVER — When Saloma Miller Furlong visited the Stevens Memorial Library last July to talk about her book “Why I Left the Amish,” they had to turn people away.
The fire code limits the library’s community room to 75 people so several disappointed folks had to leave – or try to hear Furlong’s presentation from the hallway.
When the author makes her second visit to North Andover on Sunday, March 9, she will tell her story in a much more spacious venue, the North Andover Middle School auditorium. This time she’ll talk about her just-published book, “Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds.”
Furlong wrote about her life and the choices she faced as a young woman who wanted to learn more than her community considered necessary in “Why I Left the Amish.”
In her new book, she recounts how she was coerced to return to her community, but was able to make the break for good thanks to the love of the “Yankee” (non-Amish) man she eventually married.
Furlong, who told her story in the PBS American Experience program “The Amish” in 2012, also appears in the latest PBS documentary “The Amish: Shunned.”
“Bonnet Strings” continues the story of a woman torn between the Amish community where she was born and raised and the Vermont world where she experienced freedom for the first time. At 20, Furlong began a new life as “Linda.”
She worked as a waitress, landing her “dream job” at Pizza Hut, made plans to attend college and began dating a toymaker. Furlong wrote in her first book, “there are two ways to leave the Amish, one is through life and the other through death. To leave through life, one has to deliberately walk away.”
Walking away is not as easy as it sounds. Vanloads of Amish drove to Vermont and pressured her to return to the fold in Ohio. The second time a group that included the bishop showed up.
“I felt the weight of the deep and abiding traditions of my ancestors on my shoulders,” Furlong wrote. She capitulated and returned to the community with them.
She spent the next two years trying to “make myself Amish again.” Born with a nature that did not fit into Amish culture, she was labeled stubborn and rebellious.
“It was a mismatch from the start,” she wrote. Her ties to the outside world remained through the quiet perseverance of the toymaker from Vermont, David Furlong.
After leaving the Amish, the author married David Furlong and they had two sons. She graduated from Smith College in May 2007 with a major in German studies and a minor in philosophy. While she was at Smith, she completed an internship with noted Amish expert Dr. Donald Kraybill at Elizabethtown College.
The North Andover Middle School seats more than 500. The doors will open at 2 p.m. and the program will start at 2:30 p.m. Furlong’s presentation is free due to the support of the Friends of the Stevens Memorial Library.