Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Coming Home by Rhoda Janzen
|Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Coming Home by Rhoda Janzen|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A very personal warts-and-all memoir from the American writer Rhoda Janzen. She takes great pains to inform and also to entertain her readers about all things Mennonite (a Christian community with specific values).|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: January 2011|
|Publisher: Atlantic Books|
Even although the obliging blurb on the back cover tells the reader a little about being Mennonite, I couldn't resist looking it up in the dictionary. I was intrigued to start reading. And emblazoned across the front cover is No 1 In The US. Great praise indeed, I thought. But how would it go down across the pond? Time to find out ...
Janzen's opener is terrific - The year I turned forty-three was the year I realised I should have never taken my Mennonite genes for granted. And straight away I'm loving the author's breezy, honest style. The fact that the book's written in the first person is a plus point as it draws the reader in to the story. Janzen doesn't mince her words either. She tells it straight, whether it's good news - or not. And we get an initial peep into the important mother/daughter (Janzen is the daughter) relationship. I warmed to her mom immediately. She comes across as uncomplicated, endearingly quirky and also warm and friendly. A rock in Janzen's choppy seas. But mom has always lived in the safe bosom of her husband and family and extended family of the Mennonites. Janzen is different. She wanted to break away early on and see a bit of the world. But was it all worth the bother?
Throughout the book there's many humorous lines and passages in Janzen's individual style. I loved her style. At times she could pass muster as a stand-up comic. Here's just a tiny snippet (although I'm spoilt for choice) as she talks about being a late developer The postman has to ring twice, if you get my drift. Yes, I certainly did and appreciated it too.
Not wishing to spoil the story, let's just say that Janzen has to deal with some pretty big personal issues as she reaches the big 4 - 0. Up until then, life was good. But it's all about how she deals with these hard knocks which makes for interesting and thought-provoking reading. She is extremely frank which I appreciated as some of the information is sensitive and probably difficult to put down on paper. Who really wants to air their dirty laundry in public? And my sympathies went out to her. But, she doesn't really want my sympathy, I could tell. She's a spirited woman. She'd probably say nicely thanks, but no thanks, I'm going to be fine. The unquestioning love and support of her parents is mentioned in the book, time and time again.
The subject matter at times may be dismal and heavy but Janzen does not stop and feel sorry for herself. If anything, she seems to put spin on some of it. Laugh and the world laughs with you ... There's some lovely, little descriptive gems all over this book. For example, when Janzen is (tongue-in-cheek) giving an honest appraisal of her home as she prepares to put it on the market. Funny and witty.
All of the characters come across well. Some are larger than life, such is Janzen's writing. If it wasn't such a personal account, Janzen's lovely family could be the next US sit-com television success - especially her mom. I never tired of hearing about mom. This is a little book with a big heart. I can why it's a US best-seller. Very easy to read, get involved in and ultimately I wanted to give three cheers to the indefatigable Ms Janzen as she turns a particular corner in her life. Recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this appeals then try Keeping Mum by Brian Thompson.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Coming Home by Rhoda Janzen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Coming Home by Rhoda Janzen at Amazon.com.
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