Kathleen Pooler's Reviews > Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World

Blush by Shirley Hershey Showalter
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it was amazing

Shirley Hershey Showalter’s honest and engaging account of her first 18 years in a Mennonite farm community is so compelling, I read it in three sessions not wanting to put it down. Not only was I transported into her world of fields and meadows, Sunday dinners on the farm and the strict rules of the church regarding dress and deportment, I was invited inside her thoughts and feelings about her place in her family, her church and her world.
As she introduces us to her ancestors, with a detailed portrait of her parents, she lays the foundation for her own coming-of–age story. Her mother, Barbara Hess dreams of being an actress, writer, independent woman but becomes “plain” upon her marriage to H. Richard Hershey. Her father is the first son of seven children who had a conflicted relationship with his own father. Both her parents act out their pasts in Shirley’s childhood. Barbara, while maintaining the Mennonite ways seems to nurture Shirley’s independence. Her “magic elevator “story cherished in childhood becomes an ongoing source of inspiration and hope as she grows and faces challenges in her life. Her father remains more rigid about the Mennonite teachings and eventually gets lost in his own world. “Daddy is back”, Shirley proclaims in her teen years when she witnesses the return of her father’s engagement in her life. We see how as a young child, he responds to Shirley’s confession that he must love Henry (her younger brother) more because his bike is nicer than hers. He immediately takes her to the store to buy paint to restore her bike to look as nice as Henry’s. Through it all, we get a sense of clarity about where Shirley came from. She is loved and valued for who she is.
Shirley weaves in political events and church teachings in a well-researched, detailed way which gives context to her own responses. Her reflections on the “sweet and sour” events in her life—sudden death of a baby sister, school achievements, impact of JFK’s assassination , her sometimes conflicted relationship with her father-- engage us with their honesty and believability. At the end she adds a glossary of terms and Mennonite recipes which bring us closer to her story. Although Shirley educates us on the Mennonite way of life, her message is universal—finding your unique voice in the world while still remaining faithful to the people and values that have shaped you.
By the end, I felt like she had taken me by the hand to show me how she negotiated her way to her own glittering world, on her terms. A beautifully written memoir that educates, engages and entertains its readers, it is a succulent feast.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 29, 2013 – Shelved
September 29, 2013 – Finished Reading

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