Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

When I wrote up my goals for the year, I said I’d like to do more short reviews. This is one of those.

I picked up Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress in an airport bookshop where the pickings were pretty thin (unless you happened to be a Danielle Steele or Stephen King fan, which I’m definitely not). The premise was certainly interesting: a worldly college professor, recently dumped by her newly out-of-the-closet husband, goes back to her Mennonite family to convalesce after surgery.

I generally like memoirs, and Janzen’s is both raw and real. It was good – it just wasn’t great. Maybe that’s because the cover design and copy made me think this would be hilarious, and it really wasn’t. There were some funny parts, but the overriding emotion of the memoir was bitterness, not mirth. Maybe she wrote it too soon after her divorce. I could really feel the sting of it, but I found it oddly deflating.

Still, the book demystifies Mennonites, appreciated because I live in an area with a significant Mennonite population, and didn’t really know very much about their traditions and history. I would recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about the group. It would probably also be appropriate for someone going through a divorce, as it does have a positive message about resilience, and learning to appreciate what you have. Not at all a bad book, it just didn’t fit my life or mood at the moment – thank goodness.


  1. I appreciate this review because I have this book sitting on my TBR shelf and I keep not picking it up to read.... I think I'll save this one for a vacation time

  2. Definitely a book that seems interesting, but not sure if it's something I'm going to pick up right away. Which is unfortunate because I normally gravitate towards books about different cultures. Maybe I'm feeling the same as you with that cover - it's so "chick lit" looking. Or maybe it's the "little black dress" part - I'm trying to figure out if I think it's belittling to the Mennonite community by being too flippant about it? Might I be a bit too sensitive about it? Probably - I just really enjoy learning about this culture, and I'm not sure I like the image that the cover conveys, you know? I should stop being so serious... :)

  3. Helen: I think if I had picked it up at another time, I might have been more receptive. I'm not sure. I do think the book is well-written and worth a try, though.

    CaaBC: You know, it's clear she loves her family, and appreciates her Mennonite heritage more and more as the book progresses. But she sees the humor in it, too. Kind of like me seeing the humor in being raised in a big Irish Catholic family! But I agree, the cover doesn't match the mood of the book, which was one of my problems with it -- it's nowhere near as light as it looks.


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