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Friday, December 6, 2013

The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Wanderers by Author Paul Stutzman!

Author Guest Post

Butterflies and Amish

Writing my first novel, The Wanderers, I devoted my pen (well, keyboard, in my case) to truths and the truth—truths about our journey through life and the truth about a people very much in the spotlight today, the Amish.

The seeds for the book were planted years ago by my wife’s love of Monarchs. Every fall she would hunt out milkweed plants and find a tiny Monarch worm munching away on its leaves. She’d bring that worm home, keep it in a mason jar covered with a screen, and watch the process of an unseemly worm being transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She celebrated the emergence of the butterfly as a new birth, and released it to spread its wings and fly away. The Monarch butterfly migrates in the fall, and its story is amazing; it takes four generations to complete one cycle of migration.

My wife passed away from breast cancer on September 7, 2006. On the evening of her funeral, I fell into an exhausted sleep on my recliner. Around 2:00 AM, a fluttering sound awakened me. Flying in circles above me was a Monarch butterfly. One of Mary’s friends, knowing how much my wife loved Monarchs, had created a flower arrangement that included a branch with a chrysalis attached. The butterfly had emerged while I slept—on the very night of my wife’s funeral. I was amazed. As a spiritual person, I took that as a sign that God was showing me He had transformed my wife from an earthly creature into a heavenly one.

I released the butterfly into the cold September night. Over the next several years, as I recovered from the loss of my wife, I was often reminded of that butterfly. It was fourth generation, the generation that was genetically equipped to make the long pilgrimage of migration. What happened to that butterfly? Did it survive its long journey?

I wrote the account of that night in an early chapter of my first book, Hiking Through, the story of my journey through grief. But the questions and the fascination with the Monarch’s story never left me.

So when I began to write about the Monarch, I found that the butterfly’s story is an allegory that parallels many experiences in our own journeys. This opened another opportunity for me. I have long been disgusted with the portrayal of the Amish in many of today’s movies, books, and television shows. I was born into an Amish home and have lived all of my life in the middle of a large Amish community. I wanted folks to know that most of what they see in today’s media is sensationalized and exaggerated. I wanted to write about the Amish as accurately as I know them.

And so I paired the allegory of the Monarch’s story with the love story of two young Amish people, and the result is The Wanderers, a story of transformation, love, wandering, and looking for a place we call home.

About The Author

Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too. After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey.

In the summer of 2010 Stutzman again heeded the call for adventure and pedaled his bicycle 5,000 miles across America. He began his ride at the Northwest corner of Washington State and pedaled to Key West, Florida. On his journey across America he encounters people in all circumstances, from homelessness to rich abundance. The people he meets touch his life profoundly. Stutzman writes about these encounters in his book Biking Across America.

Recently Stutzman released his first novel entitled The Wanderers. The Wanderers is a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.

In addition to writing, he speaks to groups about his hiking and biking experiences and the lessons learned during these adventures.

Stutzman resides in Berlin, Ohio.


Book Review

The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman
Publisher: Wandering Home Books
Publication: November 24, 2013 (Original Publication: November 4, 2012)
Format: Paperback - 374 pages / Kindle - 1667 KB / Nook - 4 MB
ISBN: 0984644911
Genre: Amish Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Wanderers

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home.

Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.

His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.

Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives.

Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.

But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.

Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.

Book Excerpt:

First Chapter:

I was ten when I had my first taste of beer. A late start, to be sure, but I was never bothered much by peer pressure. My friends had all sampled the stuff two or three years before, but I had felt no desire or need. There was only one reason I drank on that hot August day. I was thirsty.

Finished with my morning chores, I started across the hayfield with an armful of boards ripped from the old washhouse. Previous generations had scrubbed and soaked and steamed in the one-room shack in front of our farmhouse; my parents, though, had upgraded to a new kerosene washer, and now the women worked in the coolness under the long front porch. An old kettle still hung above the brick fire pit, but the washhouse sagged like a tired old work horse.

My dad had assigned me the task of dismantling the washhouse. That was fine with me; I had plans for that scrap lumber. I wanted to enlarge the deer stand at the edge of the distant woods. The stand was my hideout, where I spent countless hours contemplating life. It was a haven for my wondering mind, and I called it my institution of higher learning.

Eight years of school at Milford Elementary, in the little village several miles east of our farm, were not enough for me. While most Amish children were happy to be finished with formal education, I wept when I could not attend the local high school.

The English students sometimes mocked us Amish as backwards farmers, but I enjoyed school, excelled in sports, and had the gift of gab. Although I was known as something of a "charmer," I never liked the word. It's true, I could talk myself into or out of anything. You do have to make the most of whatever talents God's given you.

The school of higher education that I did attend was built in a stately oak that stood sentinel at the edge of our woods. Two gnarled branches cradled my hideout, ten feet off the ground, overlooking the fields that my family had owned for generations. Years ago, my grandfather had secured several boards across the limbs and nailed short slabs up the oak's trunk, a ladder ascending to the platform. Over time, the trunk swallowed up most of the rungs, but edges still protruded far enough for deer hunters to clamber up and lie in wait for the quarry.

My first hunt with my dad and my brother was also my last. Finally, I was deemed old enough to go hunting with the men. I climbed the ladder and settled into waiting, tense with excitement. Very soon, a doe came through the woods, paused at the spring to drink, then walked slowly down the side of the ravine. One shot echoed through the quiet morning. We scampered down the ladder rungs and approached the deer, lying bleeding on the hillside. It struggled to its feet, took another tumble, and lay still.

My excitement vanished. I felt only sadness and pangs of remorse. The doe's brown eye was open, staring at me, asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?"

Dad had a knife in his hands; I knew what must come next. Backtracking, I was violently sick behind a bush. I was not meant to be a hunter, and no one would ever shoot another deer from that stand if I had any say at all.

I did have my say. Well, my mom did. Although Dad was the authority and power in our house, Mom often held the reins. With tears streaming down my face, I unloaded my sad description of the dying deer. "We can't shoot them anymore. We just can't."

Soon the NO HUNTING signs were posted, and the woods, deer stand, and all of God's nature on our 120 acres were mine.

Well, perhaps not quite everything fell under my protection. Every year, we butchered a pig, a horrible sacrifice for the betterment of our family. My dad and brother would select the offering. I always wondered how the selection was made, but I never asked. They'd grab the unlucky swine by the hind legs, lift it over the fence, and carry it away as it squealed in terror. As the surviving porkers looked on in great relief, I'd run to the house, up the stairs, and cover my head with my pillow. I'd hear the shot anyway.

While my family processed the departed, I'd venture to the pig pen. I knew each hog by distinguishing marks; and, in dread, I checked to see who was missing. Spotty had survived. Curly was still here. Snort made the cut. We would be eating Limpy. A wild dog or coyote had wriggled through the board fence one night and taken a bite out of Limpy. Our German shepherd, Biff, had heard the commotion and chased the intruder away before he could get a second bite. On the day of Limpy’s demise, I reminded myself that I must take caution; I must never injure myself in any way that might cause my own lameness.


My usual route from the washhouse to the deer stand followed the cow path leading from the barn to the pasture field and traveled twice a day by our herd. On this day, the hay field between the house and the woods had been mowed and I took advantage of this shorter route. I might have chosen the hay field even if the route were longer; as a ten-year-old, I drank in the sensory gifts of summer: the aroma of new mown hay, the sweetness of warm strawberries, the smell of an August rain on dusty ground.

"Johnny, go get us some Stroh's!" my older brother Jonas called. He and his friend Jacob were in the field, making hay. Jacob had been recruited to help my brother today because Dad was on a lumber buying trip, and the clouds warned there would be rain by tomorrow. I dropped my boards reluctantly and retraced my steps back to the farmhouse.

My great-grandparents had built this house over a spring, and the cool waters flowed through the basement, filling a concrete trough where my mom stored crocks of butter, fresh milk and cream, eggs, watermelon, and any kind of dish she was preparing for the next meal. Those amber bottles of Stroh's were chilling in a corner of the trough just inside the door. I grabbed two by the necks and rushed back outside, leaving a wet trail of spring water.

The Stroh’s stash belonged to Jonas. Dad was bishop of our Amish church, and I had never seen him drink beer. As a church leader, he was very much aware that anything misused, misread, or mistaken could affect his reputation and influence in the community.

Jonas, on the other hand, had no such reputation to protect. Sixteen, he had recently concluded his formal education and he knew exactly where his future lay. He was not yet a member of the church, but he would join in a few years, get married, and settle down right here in our valley. He had big plans to take over the sawmill that my dad ran as a part-time operation. I was the younger of Dad's sons; my father's hope was that I would be farming the Miller family land someday.

"You thirsty?" Jonas handed his half-empty bottle to me. I was thirsty. But that first taste was not good.

Still, that swallow in the hay field meant that now I was one of the men. I may have been a Miller boy, but now I was a Stroh's man.

Yes, I admit, many bottles of Stroh's beer would find their way to the deer stand in the years to come. For a while, it was not only my thinking stand, it was my drinking stand. More of a beer stand than a deer stand. Stroh's beer would get me into so much trouble; but it would also lead to meeting Annie. And then, for a short time, I had it all. I was an Amish man living the dream.

Until it was all taken from me.

My Book Review:

The Wanderers is an interesting story about an Amish boy's coming of age and journey of self-discovery, finding love and faith, that is entwined with the journey of two Monarch Butterflies that were born on his family's Amish farm.

Johnny was born into an Amish farming family, but as he grows into adulthood he questions his family's traditions and lifestyle. He wants more out of life, and as he wanders on his journey of self-discovery, his restlessness leads him down a dangerous road. Johnny's direction and life is transformed when he meets and falls in love with Annie, a lovely girl who is devoted to her faith. But tragedy strikes that changes Johnny's life forever, causing him to once again wander on a new journey of discovery while searching for his home once again.

Sabio and Mariposa are two Monarch Butterflies that are born on Johnny's family's farm. Transforming from worms into beautiful butterflies, they embark on their own long journey of being entrusted with carrying out the amazing miracle of the fourth generation before finding their own home.

Author Paul Stutzman weaves an intriguing multi-layered tale of love, hope, faith and finding your home/place in the world. It took me awhile to get into the story as it was a bit confusing with the alternating perspectives of different characters as well as that of the butterflies. But once I got a grasp of Johnny's and the butterflies stories, I was able to get drawn into the story as their journeys unfolded.

I was intrigued with the Amish lifestyle, the author utilizes his Amish background to provide the reader with a richly detailed and descriptive look into the Amish community. As a person who has always been fascinated by Monarch Butterflies, I enjoyed the author's description of the transformation of the two worms into amazing Monarch Butterflies and their own magical journey.

The journey of discovery and wandering is left open-ended and leaves the reader wanting more. It looks like story will be continued in the next book.


Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

Monday, November 4
First Chapter Reveal at Pump Up Your Book

Wednesday, November 6
Book Review & First Chapter Reveal at Lighthouse Academy

Thursday, November 7
First Chapter Reveal at The Book Connection

Friday, November 8
Interview & Book Giveaway at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Monday, November 11
Book Review at Splashes of Joy
Book Feature at Shhh…Not While I’m Reading

Tuesday, November 12
Book Featured at Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
Book Review at Jubilee Reviews

Wednesday, November 13
Book Review at Shhh…Not While I’m Reading

Thursday, November 14
Guest Blogging at Shhh…Not While I’m Reading

Friday, November 15
First Chapter Review at Cheryl’s Christian Book Connection

Monday, November 18
Book Review at Musings by Maureen

Tuesday, November 19
Book Review at My Devotional Thoughts

Wednesday, November 20
Book Review at Melina’s Book Blog
Book Feature at Moonlight Lace & Mayhem
First Chapter Reveal at Fallen Over Book Reviews

Thursday, November 21
Book Review at Deco My Heart
Book Feature at Rambling Voices in My Head

Friday, November 22
Guest Blogging at The Busy Moms Daily

Monday, November 25
Book Feature at Jody’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 26
Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Wednesday, November 27
Book Review & First Chapter Reveal at Giving N Sharing

Friday, November 29
Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC.

Monday, December 2
Book Review at Deal Sharing Aunt

Tuesday, December 3
First Chapter Reveal at The Writer’s Life
First Chapter Reveal at The Reading Cat
Book Featured at Icefairy’s Treasure Chest

Wednesday, December 4
Guest Blogging at Books Books the Magical Fruit

Thursday, December 5
Book Review at 2 Kids and Tired Books

Friday, December 6
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Tuesday, December 10
Guest Blogging at Chick With Books

Monday, December 16
First Chapter Reveal at Read My First Chapter

Tuesday, December 17
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Crystal’s Many Reviews

Wednesday, December 18
Book Review at The Self-Taught Cook

Thursday, December 19
Book Review & First Chapter Reveal at Hardcover Feedback

Friday, December 20
Book Review at Eccentric Eclectic Woman

Monday, December 23
Book Review at Every Free Chance Reviews

Thursday, December 26
Book Review at Blooming with Books
Book Review & First Chapter Review at Chick With Books

Friday, December 27
Book Review at WV Stitcher
Book Review at A Simple Life, Really?


  1. Thanks for your wonderful review, Kathy!!!

    1. Thank you for the kind words and the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event. :)