Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Summary: A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead. -- Henry Holt

I had high hopes for MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS: A MEMOIR OF GOING HOME by Rhoda Janzen. I'm not sure what I was hoping for, but this book was just "awright" for me. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it - there were certainly parts of it that I found very entertaining, it's just that I wanted this memoir to really stand out; and it didn't quite do that for me.

I think I might be an exception with my reaction to this book because I have seen some terrific reviews for it. The advance praise on the back cover alone makes me question my feelings, and the book also received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. It could just be that MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS wasn't the book that I was in the mood for this week!

I can't put my finger on why I didn't love this book because it was certainly well written. I also found it very funny at times. Ms. Janzen has a very unique voice that is filled with lots of insight and wit, and I did find myself cracking up over her self-deprecating humor. As I read this novel, I honestly asked myself how much one person could go through. Not only was the author was in a major car wreck, but her husband left her for a man all within a very short period of time.

Maybe my reaction was because I couldn't really relate to the author's story (thank goodness for that.) One thing I did appreciate about this book, though, was Ms. Janzen's honesty and how she was willing to share her story. I think many women will be able to relate to some of her experiences and her emotions, and I hope they can take away something from Ms. Janzen's powerful story of healing. If nothing else, all readers will see how essential the author's sense of humor was to her well-being.

I'm pretty sure that many book groups will appreciate MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS, and I honestly think it would be a very interesting book to discuss. There is a reading guide available with some great questions. Some of the topics that you could further explore include religion, childhood, parent/child relationships, marriage, friendships, hope and healing.

I wanted to share with you a video from the author of MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS:

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this memoir.


Molly said...

What a terrifically honest book review! I think the title of the book is eye-catching and would set up certain expectations for me as a reader as well.

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry you didn't connect with this book more. I hope I don't have my expectations set to high for it.

Beth F said...

I've been curious about this book, and may still read it. Thanks so much for your honest review.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have those reactions too, when a book just doesn't do it for me, but I can't put my finger on why!

Anna said...

I've read books like that too, books that I found only okay but don't really know exactly why. Sometimes for me it's not being able to relate to a character, but sometimes I can overlook that. I know I'm not being any help here LOL. Thanks for the honest review.

Diary of an Eccentric

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've heard good things too. I think many times a book just needs to hit you in the right mood. I recently read a book (review coming in a couple of weeks) that literally everyone loved, but I did not. Makes me wonder about myself. Still I appreciate that you didn't unleash a feeding frenzy on this book, but were very honest and gracious!

Amused said...

That's too bad. Thanks for the great review!

Peaceful Reader said...

I'm going to add this to my 2010 tbr list! Thanks for the good review.

Melanie said...

I think the title and the publicity were misleading. It's not really a funny book about a Mennonite. It's a book about a woman who is trying to find herself. It was well written and the ending was satisfying, and best of all the author wasn't whinney about it.