Out of This World
“A beautiful, seemingly effortless weaving of past and present, with masterful, witty, honest, odelike meditations on everything from Catholicism to the masks we all wear to friendship. . . . Every topic Swander touches is done with the finely tuned, and completely-in-charge, skills of the poet and essayist.”—Boston Globe
“A severe allergy required the author to grow all her own food: she found herself a lone female homesteader cultivating a life among the Amish, and writes of her experiences and their lifestyles in this blend of autobiography and observation. This is a more personal story than most, imparting the tales and experiences central to Amish lifestyles and providing a gentle understanding of Amish culture, religion, and community in the process.”—Midwest Book Review
“Living in an Amish community, tied to the land and the seasons, Swander came to find balance and reawakened to a life of simplicity.”—Chicago Tribune
“Out of This World flies on the strength of Swander’s perceptions as a naturalist and on the drama of her challenges as a survivor of a truly otherworldly disease.”—Entertainment Weekly
When a life-threatening allergic illness demanded that she eat only organically grown food, writer and professor Mary Swander built a new life in a former one-room Iowa schoolhouse in the middle of the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi. In this rich and engaging memoir, which follows the course of a farmer’s year, she writes from the well-named Fairview School to share the radical transformation of her life.
From her perch in rural Kalona, Iowa, Swander discovers new strength and self-reliance along with a community of hardworking and hospitable neighbors. Raising goats and poultry, participating in barn raisings and auctions, protecting her garden from a plague of grasshoppers, creating a living crèche at Christmastime, all the while laughing at her attempts to wrestle with the pioneer challenges of midwestern winters and summers, she explores what it means to be a lone physical and spiritual homesteader at the end of the twentieth century.