Title: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Author: Rhoda Janzen
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
After Rhoda Janzen’s husband of 15 years leaves her for a man he met on Gay.com (whose name is Bob), she returns home to her Mennonite family. While she isn’t a practicing Mennonite, she finds solace in the familiarity of the culture and religion as she reflects on her life and tries to grow from her experiences.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress and was eager to read it when I received a copy for review. I knew that it was supposed to be extremely funny, but I didn’t put too much stock in that. After all, funny can only take you so far, and it’s really hard to sustain that over the course of an entire book!
However, Rhoda Janzen’s sense of humor in Mennonite in a Little Black Dress proved me wrong. The entire book was really funny – I was surprised at how well it worked! Janzen pokes fun at herself, her family, and Mennonite culture in general, though it’s never malicious. She doesn’t exploit her family for material; instead, she lovingly laughs at them, sharing their most endearing (and most humorous) qualities. It’s the same with the Mennonites – though Rhoda doesn’t consider herself Mennonite anymore, it’s clear she has a soft spot for them. When laughs at them, it’s always with fondness.
I didn’t know much about Mennonites going into this book, and I often found myself confused. Janzen has a Mennonite primer at the back of the book which is both funny and informative. However, I would have appreciated it being at the front of the book – a quick history of the Mennonites would have helped me understand this book more!
The flow of this book is a little strange. There were times I wasn’t clear whether she was talking about the present or the past. Also, her relationship with Nick, her ex-husband, was so tumultuous and she doesn’t tell their story all at once so it’s difficult to figure out when things happened chronologically. It’s also difficult to understand why she didn’t leave Nick sooner, but then again, she was being emotionally abused.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress isn’t perfect – Janzen tends to ramble and get off-topic a little too often. But it’s fun and incredibly amusing. Additionally, the book reads more like chick lit than your traditional memoir, so it may appeal to those who don’t read non-fiction very often. It’s an entertaining book that I recommend for a light read.