Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – Rhoda Janzen
Forty-something American/Canadian Rhoda Janzen has had a terrible time of it. Her wonderful, gorgeous husband has left her for for a guy called Bob who he met on Gay.com and her troubles multiply as, in the same week, she is hospitalized following a serious road accident. Incapacitated, she decides to return to the bosom of her Mennonite family to lick her wounds.
So far so good, I am fascinated by the lifestyle of faith groups such as the Amish and Mennonites and I was eagerly anticipating how Rhoda, a self-proclaimed “bad” Mennonite and 21st Century girl would fit back into this conservative Christian community. However….what I got instead was more like a marathon stint by a stand-up comedian – the “pee-bag” joke was funny the first time I read it but then it cropped up again, and again, and again.. Yes, it’s good to be self-deprecating in a world which sometimes encourages us to wallow in self-pity but after a while it just becomes irksome and there’s surely only so many custard pies you can throw in the face of quirky family and friends before the humour fizzles out.
I would have enjoyed this more if it hadn’t been a book – odd to say in the midst of a book review, I know. Janzen tells us that friends encouraged her to write the book after receiving funny e-mails from her about her return to the Mennonite community. Indeed it is like a series of rambling e-mails except we don’t have the benefit of dates to aid our navigation through the jumble of anecdotes which would have been much better suited to blog posts or a weekly newspaper column. Janzen jumps about through time and space at a pace which would give Captain Kirk a run for his money. I wanted to know more about how she felt, not hear another tale about her mother’s flatulence! Oh and there’s a potted history of Mennonites and a few recipes from her Mom tacked on at the end – something for all the family!