book review: mennonite in a little black dress

Title: mennonite in a little black dress
Author: Rhoda Janzen
ISBN: 978-0805089257
Pages: 256
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
Category: memoir
Review source: publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Don’t know a Mennonite from an Amish person? Author Rhoda Janzen says that the Amish actually are less strict and broke off from the Mennonites. My only issue with this memoir is that I read it never understanding anything about the Mennonites or their culture. Sure a bit about the dress, the food, some of the strictness and lack of education but I could never describe what a Mennonite is to someone after reading this book. So why feature it so prominently in the title. I realized Janzen left the Mennonites and went off on her own. That could be it. And ha, ha. A Mennonite (people know it’s some old-fashioned religious group) in a black dress! How droll. But I wish she explains a bit more while retaining her conversational tone. Her Mennonite relatives come from Russia, particularly Ukraine. Rhoda Janzen grew up as a Mennonite in California but she lucked out with a liberal family who traveled and believed in education. She’s a professor and at the beginning of her memoir she finds out that she needs a hysterectomy. She and her husband move to a beautiful lakefront home and he leaves her for Bob, who he met on Then she gets hit head on in the first snowstorm of the season in Chicago and ends up with two broken ribs, a fractured clavicle and cracked patella. Ouch!

Nick was gone. My marriage was over. Under circumstances like these, what was a forty-three-year-old gal to do?

I’ll tell you what I did. I went home to the Mennonites. Oh, I had been back to California for the occasional holiday, and I had flown in for my father’s enormous retirement bash five years earlier. But in twenty-five years I had not spent any real time in the Mennonite community in which I’d been raised.

mennnonite in a little black dress is a wonderfully candid and heartfelt memoir. Rhoda Janzen holds nothing back. She gives it all to the reader: her feelings on growing up mennonite, details about her on-off marriage, modified mennonite cooking [a bit TOO much on this], dating again after many years, her career as a professor, and her feelings about her parents and siblings. mennonite in a little black dress is genuine and a truly unique story unlike any other I’ve read.

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  1. #1 by Amy Steele on January 10, 2010 - 17:22

    Actually I didn’t mean to give it that high a rating. I changed it. I agree. Too much on the cooking. Plus I didn’t know what a mennonite was at all. That might have been useful.

  2. #2 by Julie P. on January 10, 2010 - 13:54

    I liked this book but didn’t love it. I thought it was very well-written though!

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