What exactly is a Mennonite? That is the question wanted answered when I decided to read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. Well ladies and gents, a Mennonite is a Christian denomination which practices a more conservative way of life, but is not Amish. In fact, the Amish moved away from the Mennonites, declaring them too liberal for their taste. In this memoir, the author reflects back on her Mennonite childhood while moving home to live with her parents after suffering a horrible car crash and a divorce from her husband who left for a man he met on a dating website.
Rhoda Janzen writes with humor, wit and brutal honesty about her traditional Mennonite upbringing and her decision to take an unconventional path after college. She chronicles her tumultuous relationship with an abusive husband with candid self-awareness, while also finding the irony and comedy in her experiences. The book is filled with vignettes about her life as a child as well as what it is like to come home to this lifestyle after so many years away. Janzen’s family is a colorful set of people who bring life to the pages, especially her mother, who is full of wisdom and one-liners.
My enthusiasm for this book is two-fold. I felt this book gave me an education about a religious group that I knew nothing about as well as gave me comic relief and insight into another family’s life. Addtionally, it reminded me that all families have fundamental commonalities no matter the religious faith, culture or ethnicity.