Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

I should have known that any book recommended to me by two people that I consider my soul-mates should be amazing. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress was recommended to me by Kristina and Kris, who don't know each other but should. I'd love to link to Kristina's review of the book, but the bookseller that she used to work for took down all of her amazing book reviews. Both Ks are Canadian, which has pretty much nothing to do with the book, but Kris grew up Mennonite, which has a lot to do with Rhoda Janzen's memoir.

Oh my goodness. I laughed sooo hard while reading this book. I was actually guffawing. I really can't say it better than Elizabeth Gilbert does on the back cover of the book: "It is rare that I literally laugh out loud while I'm reading, but Rhoda Janzen's voice—singular, deadpan, sharp-witted, and honest—slayed me, with audible results."

Rhoda Janzen was raised in a Mennonite community but strayed far, far from her roots when she went to college. The book begins the year she turns 43, when a series of unfortunate events pushes Janzen back to the arms of her parents: she has a hysterectomy, her husband leaves her for a man he meets on gay.com, and she is badly injured in a car accident. She goes home to recover and in doing so, uncovers a whole barrel of truths about love, family, faith, and community.

The book isn't really so much about the Mennonite faith. Jantzen's tidbits on growing up Mennonite are hilarious, such as her list of the "top five Shame-Based Foods for Mennonite youth lunches." The memoir is really about coming to terms with your family with all its quirks, finding safety, and reconciling who you once were with who you are now.

Janzen is hilarious, but she is also a poet. Her writing is beautiful and terribly witty. In some ways she reminds me of Celia Rivenbark, author of Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank (clidk for my review) and other gems. But Janzen has more serious moments than Rivenbark. She is truly reflective and lyrical in her writing, which makes her dry humor even better.

I love this book and highly recommend it. I predict it will make my Top 10 list this year.

Other Reviews
Caroline Bookbinder
Mrs. O'Dell Reads
100 Memoirs
Vulpes Libris
At Home with Books

Linked up on Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books


Heidi’sbooks said...

Wow, this sounds really great. I read a review that wasn't that enthusiastic, so I put it out of my mind. I should check it out!

Carin Siegfried said...

I agree, it was a great book! I should put ina plug though for the audio - I think humor books always work really well on audio as this one did for me.

* said...

and I predict you will, once again, make my top ten list this year.

Judylynn said...

(Look, Sarah, I did make it back here to you blog!) I saw this book in the library and I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but now you have me wanting to read it. Thanks for the review (I saw you on Semicolon!).