Nicole's Reviews > Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
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's review
Dec 18, 2009

did not like it
Read in December, 2009

Rhoda Janzen moved back in with her Mennonite parents after she survived a horrendous car accident and her bipolar, abusive husband left her for "a guy named Bob he met on" (The author uses that phrase over and over) . Her parents and extended Mennonite community welcomed her back with open arms. So, she spent the time there writing a book that makes fun of Mennonites. This isn't a "you know you grew up Mennonite if..." book. That, I would have found interesting. No, this book puts down the very people that Janzen returned to when her heart (and body) was broken. Throughout the book Jenzen defended her controlling ex-husband because he was "a genius" and "charming". He also refused to take his Lithium (despite his master's in clinical psychology), quit every job he could hold down in favor of his "art", and belittled her upbringing every chance he could get. The bipolar, bisexual hubby demanded that they do what he wanted to do, when he wanted to, while listening to the music he chose. Somehow, Janzen left and returned to this guy repeatedly. It is bizarre, then, that the book focused so much on tearing down her Mennonite family, all of whom are happily married and successful in their lives. Janzen doesn't explore why she left the church, other than writing about her experience at a Presbyterian VBS where she discovered and was horrified by "groupthink" (something I found hard to believe an elementary-school-aged kid would find troubling). Nevertheless, she left the church after going to a Mennonite college and hooked up with Mr. Wrong for the next 15 years. While visiting her parents, Janzen starts dating a great guy, but won't introduce him to her friends because he is Mennonite. She can't imagine a future with him. This chick has serious problems and writing a memoir didn't solve them. She needs therapy and you need not read this book.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Jennifer Are you a Mennonite? I only ask because I didn't take this as her tearing down her Mennonite family at all. I just wonder if maybe I don't see it that way because I'm not a part of that sect. She pokes fun at a lot of different groups. But she loves her family, and ultimately, I thought she felt like they had done the best they could. Sorry you didn't enjoy the book. I found it very entertaining.

Nicole No, I'm not a Mennonite. I just thought it was strange that she was so critical of the group who accepted her, no strings attached, when she was at her worst. I was disappointed, in fact, that she didn't explain more about the Mennonite culture. It seemed like it was written for those who grew up Mennonite, who would understand her point of view. I wondered if some of the stuff her mom did (like drinking tuna juice) was somehow Mennonite-like (being frugal) or just her mom's eccentricity.

message 3: by Gc (new) - rated it 1 star

Gc I am not Mennonite, but I have lived among Mennonites and other Anabaptist people all my life. I too, thought she was awfully critical of the people whose desire it was to help and lover her. I think she was tearing down Mennonites for the purpose of building herself up. You could remove the word Mennonite and add just about any other group - farmers, Jewish shopkeepers, Lutherans, New Englanders, commercial fishermen- it seemed to me that her aim was just to mock people who didn't act or think as she did. A good humorous memoir makes people's eccentricities funny, but you never forget that the author loves his or her subjects. Read Michael Perry's Population 485 about coming home to a small town in Wisconsin for a much higher quality, better written humorous memoir.

Nicole Thank you sooo much for the recommendation for Population 485! What a great book! Perry can really write and he never puts his family and neighbors down. Population 485 was everything Mennonite wasn't. Thanks again.

message 5: by J (last edited Aug 12, 2010 05:16PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

J Never even met a Mennonite and I agree she mocks them. I totally agree with the original post. It seemed cruel and ungrateful to me.

Jeanne Grunert I agree. It doesn't matter whether you're Mennonite or not - all she does is make fun of her mother, her family of origin, and Mennonite traditions. It would be amusing IF she herself didn't live such a screwed up life. But when her own life choices away from her Mennonite faith led to such bad decisions and horrible consequences, you'd think she's stop mocking her family and take a look at the values they hold dear in a more positive light. The book meandered and rambled all over the place without shape or form, and the "why" she stayed with his nutty guy for 15 years is left an unpleasant mystery.

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