Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Janzen

Two of my good friends with wonderful senses of humor were reading this book at the same time- and both thought it was hilarious. So, I figured it was worth a shot. Unfortunately, I always have trouble reading anything that comes with such high expectations. A memoir, Rhoda Janzen returns to her Mennonite family after her bi-polar husband leaves her for his gay lover and she suffers a debilitating car accident. I thought the premise left a lot of room for exploration - Janzen's Mennonite values and background clearly shaped so much of who she is, yet she left her faith and puruse higher education. Janzen comments frequently throughout the book about the "strangeness" of Mennonite culture, but doesn't fully explore why she ended up so different from her siblings. She also delves into the painful truth of her marriage to an abusive mentally ill man - and acknowledges that love blinded her to his treatment - but she doesn't fully seem to have learned any lessons from the relationship that would help her in the future. Despite my belief that this book could have served a much greater purpose given Janzen's tremendous experiences, it seems the book she wanted to write was one that poked fun at her tragic life. I did really enjoy her exchanges with her mother - a woman who seems to accept everyone for who they are without judgment, and has a great sense of humor herself, even when it seems to be at her own expense. I loved Janzen's interactions with her, and the model of patience and unconditional love she provided. Janzen is definitely funny, but like Augusten Burroughs I think there is so much sadness in the life she mocks that I often had a hard time finding the humor.

No comments: