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The true story of an Amish girl who escaped in the middle of the night at age 15.
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How far would you go for freedom, love, and safety?
The true story of an Amish girl who escaped in the middle of the night at age 15.
Less a book and more a confession from a close friend.
Riveting, inspiring, empowering.”
– Brian Young
Navajo Writer + Filmmaker
Why should you spend 6 figures for what I wrote?
The best advice I got about marketing this book wasn’t from a publishing mentor but from a fellow entrepreneur––who isn’t in publishing.
He said, “If you want someone to buy your book, you have to explain why it’s worth an investment of ~20 hours. Why should they buy it when it’ll cost them 20 hours of their time to read it or listen to it? Even if they don’t end up reading it. . . .”
That perception shift suddenly made my book not just a $20 product, but worth 6 figures (for some of the people who I hope will get a copy).
Here are some reasons:
1. What Tim Ferriss said when he interviewed me:
“For those of you who feel trapped because of a job or self-imposed obligations as an entrepreneur, this will put things in perspective.
How do you escape your environment if you’re unable to control it? If almost no one on the outside realizes what’s happening?”
2. So you stop being so hard on yourself and recognize that you’re good enough already and you don’t have to compete with others. Yes, I’ve accomplished a long list of “impossibles”. But I’ve accomplished just as long of a list of “fuckups”. I didn’t become truly successful until I learned to love and value myself, which I didn’t get until 15 years after my escape.
3. So you know that you’re not alone and where to find a likeminded community. This book is for you if you’ve ever felt foreign in the body or culture you were born into. If you ever felt like you were the only one, that no one understands you. And you want to find a group of people who finally feel like “home” to you.
4. If you’ve dedicated your life to answering the questions:
Who am I? Why am I here? Why don’t my parents love me? Why does bad shit happen to me? Will I ever be happy and loved?
And, if you’re an abuse survivor with a traumatic childhood, I want you to know that laughing again is possible. Some wounds will never heal but it’s possible to create meaning for your life. That’s why I’m still here and sharing my story. – Torah
What Readers Say
“This book kept me riveted until the end.”
Melanie Jones“Easy to digest, yet masterfully written. Absolutely a must-read.”
“This is a very inspiring and engaging story about how the author, a 15-year-old female, managed to escape from a terrible and situation.”
An Amish Girl in Manhattan: Escaping at Age 15, Breaking All the Rules, and Feeling Safe Again
. . . is the tale of a girl whose childhood was so crushing that she literally escaped in the middle of the night at age 15, without telling anyone goodbye.
She left the only world she had ever known, crash-landing into one that didn’t speak her language, wear her clothes, and understand her problems.
She gave up everything—family, security, community—in the hopes that one day her dreams might come true.
Excerpts from the chapter, "A Car Crash and My First Funeral"
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, kick back, and get lost in my world. 🙂
A teenage boy lay in the open casket next to the bishop. During rumspringa—a period of time from age sixteen or seventeen until marriage—he’d bought a car and, after a night of drinking and partying, ended up killed in a crash.
“The world is the devil’s playground,” the preacher said. “This is what happens if you get a car.”
When the sermon, hymns, and prayers were over, the preacher sat down. Row after row, people in the barn filed past the casket and returned to their seat. The adults held their small children up and pointed when they got to the dead boy.
None of the Amish people in the front rows had tears on their faces. The longer I inspected their behavior, the more it seemed to me that the boy’s English friends really loved him and that maybe his Amish relatives didn’t care for him quite as much. Was he that bad if he had friends who cried so much in front of all the people? They seemed very sad that he was dead.
. . .
Later that week, I kept asking to visit the graveyard. I’d picked up that the boy was buried in an Amish one, not the English one that we’d pass by on our way into town during shopping trips—for things we didn’t make ourselves, like sugar and hardware. Every Memorial Day, lots of English people, dressed up in nice clothes, would put little American flags and bunches of flowers on the plots of their loved ones.
“This is how an Amish graveyard looks like?” I asked. It didn’t look nice like the English one.
“We don’t get buried in English graveyards,” my mother said.
That was when it hit me that even in death, we Amish had to stay separated from the rest of the world. There’d be no crying. No big tombstones. No lilies on Memorial Day. And no name on the concrete slab if I was bad.
Excerpts from the chapter, "Aborted Snowflakes and a Wheelbarrow for Christmas"
Refill that cup and travel back in time again.
Tomorrow is Christmas,” my mother said, casting a purple stitch. A partial mitten appeared under her knitting needles. Long cracks spidered her hands from the cold temperatures and never-ending daily household chores. Each night, she moisturized with Vaseline—a petroleum jelly—but her hands remained dry and rough. I didn’t like it when she touched my arms or washed my face. Her hands scratched my sensitive skin.
Everyone sat around the living room stove after supper. John slept in a baby basket next to my mother, his pacifier hanging from a string pinned to his homemade dress. In our particular Wisconsin community, little boys wore dresses like the girls until they started walking. Aden stacked a pile of wood blocks on the floor. His blond hair, cut in the shape of an upside-down soup bowl, needed another trim; the curls were too long and got into his eyes. Anna pretend-fed milk to her twin faceless Amish dolls dressed in matching dark blue clothes.
“What’s Christmas?” I asked. A picture book slid off my lap and fell on the floor.
“It’s a very special day,” my father said. “We’re going to surprise you.”
“What’s the surprise?”
“Go to sleep. When you wake up, you’ll find out.” He swiveled back in his chair and flipped to the next page of the Amish newspaper The Budget.
. . .
In the morning, the glass of water on my nightstand had morphed into a block of ice. My toes and fingers were numb. I stood over the register in the floor next to the chimney, but the fire below me had died.
I walked over to a window. Today was Christmas. Would it look any different? The panel was iced over so I couldn’t see outside. I blew warm puffs to make the crystals melt, and scratched a peephole through the glass.
. . .
Seventeen years later, I spent my first Christmas morning in New York City alone. This time the room I’d slept in was toasty warm. The stairs I descended were marble and all the hallways lit. I stood in an empty, massive drawing room, graced with a towering Christmas tree, and looked out across Riverside Drive, beyond the park, and over the icy Hudson River.
. . .
I used to wonder how anyone could be suicidal during Christmas. Now I understand. It’s the worst time of year. I turned away from the window, away from the happy people outside, and took the elevator back up to my room. Maybe I could make myself fall asleep so I’d forget the gnawing hunger in my stomach.
"Absolutely a must-read"
I found this book and the author’s personal journey to be so inspiring and empowering, as she describes and reflects on her escape from a terrible situation at a young age as well as her entrance into a culture (and even a language) quite different from her own.
Her journey from Amish upbringing to graduating from one of the most elite universities in the USA is amazing.
Highly, highly recommended, and my congratulations to the author for her success and hard work in processing so many traumas allowing her to be able to share her story in written form with us!
Melanie Jones, Reader Review
"Highly recommend . . . inspiring true life story about succeeding despite all odds"
Congratulations to Torah for being able to process her traumatic childhood experiences enough to be able to write a memoir. This is a very inspiring and engaging story about how the author, a 15-year-old female, managed to escape from a terrible and situation.
Despite being uneducated at the time her escape and not speaking English as her first language, she then goes on to graduate from one of the most elite universities in the USA.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for inspiring true life stories about overcoming trauma, self-empowerment (especially female empowerment), and succeeding in life despite all odds.
Keerthi Vemulapalli, Reader Review
"Couldn't put it down"
"This book kept me riveted until the end"
This book kept me riveted until the end. The emotional lows that she went through were so painful and traumatizing that I could empathize with her pain and hope now she can live a better life.
Tina, Reader Review
“I read this book in one day. I couldn’t put it down.”
“Absolutely a must-read. It is an easy yet well-written read that deals with incredibly complex themes. As someone who has read quite a few books and memoirs dealing with themes of trauma and overcoming obstacles, I have to say this memoir has it all.”
– Melanie Jones
Amish ChildrenTraditional Midwestern
This girl could be me when I was that age. The style of clothing is similar to the style I grew up in.
This book is to let you know that you don’t have to be extraordinary to be Extraordinary.
If you read it, you’ll find a part of yourself in my story.
It’s for you if you’ve ever felt foreign in the body or culture you were born in.
Or if you’ve dedicated your life to answering the questions:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Why don’t my parents love me?
Why does bad shit happen to me?
Will I ever be happy and loved?
– Torah Bontrager
An Amish Girl in Manhattan: Escaping at Age 15, Breaking All the Rules, and Feeling Safe Again (a memoir)
Torah’s story has been featured here:
1. Tim Ferriss‘ blog. Interview by New York Times & Wall Street Journal bestselling author Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek, etc. “Escaping the Amish (Parts 1 & 2)”
4. MTV’s award-winning True Life documentary series. Episode “I’m Ex Amish”.
MTV’s True Life. “I’m Ex Amish” update (my story made the BRAVE category for the entire span of True Life’s 16-year history at the time). Video Clip
5. Unconventional Life Podcast by Jules Schroeder. Hosted on the Forbes Under 30 Channel. Episode 34: From Amish-Escapee to Author: How to Powerfully Leverage Your Personal Story