Sunday, 27 March 2011

Book Review - Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda has just been dumped by her husband of fifteen years for a man he met on the Internet and she is about to lose everything, so what does she do? She moves back with her Mennonite family.

So what are Mennonites? They are usually confused with the Amish people. Easy mistake to make as the Mennonites are a faction of the Amish. Although the earlier are more "liberal" regarding modern living allowing themselves to drive, go to college, use of technology like computers, mobile phones and electricity. However, they are still deeply rooted in their faith. They are not dissimilar to the Quaker's descendants you can come across in the UK today.

Everything basically goes wrong: Janzen gets sick and the surgery she needs ends badly, her husband leaves her, she is involved in a car crash and to top it all off she is about to lose the house her husband insisted on buying and she can no longer afford on her own. It all sounds very sudden and unexpected, almost as if she has been dealt an unfair amount of bad luck, but as you keep reading it becomes clear all the wrong things have been happening for quite a while and she has simply been in denial.

Janzen is a scholar and very fond of her status. No wonder, as she worked hard to get herself there. Admittedly, scholars are not my favorite type of people as they seem to think that their intelligence gives them the right to belittle others. Nick, Janzen’s ex-husband, is a good example of that, although he is a little too polished and trendy for an outright scholar generalization. Holding a Masters Degree or a P.H.D., however, does not make them other than human and, despite her intelligence and education, Janzen has done what a lot of woman in abusive relationships do: denied it was happening. We have the preconception that abuse equals physical abuse when in reality bullying someone emotionally is probably more soul destroying than being physically beaten. 

The other interesting detail about this book is that she spent her life running away from her heritage and her people. I can easily understand why. She just wanted to be "normal" and fit in. A feeling or need she could have developed during her teens when she went to a regular school but was dressed and had to behave like a Mennonite and therefore stood-up like a sore thumb. Having said that, when everything failed and her life went hay-wire they were the ones that not only rescued her, but received her from her broken, scarred state with open arms and no reservations. This is what started her journey returning to her roots and questioning her reasons and views of her heritage. 

This book is really a self-discovery memoir and, for me, it cut quite close to the bone. Since I read for escapism I cannot really say I enjoyed it or that I will be reading it again. As an inspiring writer, however, I think it is beautifully written and her wit is really entertaining. She managed to tell quite a soul destroying story and still make it funny and engaging. In conclusion, an interesting and thought provoking read if you look in between the lines, otherwise an entertaining one. If, like me, you like romance and action packed books... This might not be the book for you, but I cannot deny it is brilliantly written and very funny. 

Book Rating: **
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  1. Sorry you didn't love it. And thanks for the honest review.

    Oh and thanks for visiting my blog :)

  2. It's not that I didn't love it. It just wasn't my cup of tea, but I thought it was beautifully written.

    You're more than welcome on visiting your blog. I'm always popping by I love it!


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