Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Rhoda Janzen
Holt, Oct 2009, $22.00
ISBN: 9780805089257

This is a fascinating memoir of a woman at forty who was still recovering from a car accident that disabled her from lifting her right arm over her head. However, that proved minor to her husband Nick dumping her after fifteen somewhat volatile years together. He ended their marriage to be with Bob, who he met on the Internet. Realizing with his departure that she was a co-dependent who encouraged his behavior because she could not leave, Rhoda Janzen moved back into the home of her Mennonite parents. There she creates her 12-step program to help her move on even as she looked back to the religion she was raised in but abandoned.

This is a terrific memoir that uses self deprecating humor to both enlighten the reader on helping oneself through tough times and most critically lighten somewhat the emotional strain and stress of difficulty with jocularity. Rhoda Janzen does so by taking the audience back to her Mennonite roots as only a skeptic can appreciate chilled borscht as a gourmet dessert instead of a soup served cold. Although the appendix “A Mennonite History Primer” seems an awkward padded addition that feels out of place, Ms. Janzen proves you can go home when loved ones are there to welcome you with mental and physical hugs as long as you are remember the unwritten unmentionable criticality of what is expected from you: “polish your floor with your ass”.

Harriet Klausner

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