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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

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A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her. Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead.


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A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her. Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead.

30 review for Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra has deer,groundhogs & squirrels in the yard

    You can read this book in one of two ways: either as a straight memoir by an English professor who had several personal challenges including a bad car accident who went home to her Mennonite parents to recover and wrote this book. Very simplistic and fairly enjoyable, although as Mennonites are nowhere near as separated from modern society as the Amish, there are few interesting insights into a really different culture. Or you can read this as a thinly-disguised hate book against her ex-husband You can read this book in one of two ways: either as a straight memoir by an English professor who had several personal challenges including a bad car accident who went home to her Mennonite parents to recover and wrote this book. Very simplistic and fairly enjoyable, although as Mennonites are nowhere near as separated from modern society as the Amish, there are few interesting insights into a really different culture. Or you can read this as a thinly-disguised hate book against her ex-husband about whom she loses no opportunity to damn, slag, belittle, bad-mouth, deprecate and otherwise put-down the poor man. This is a much more enjoyable way to read the book as she exercises all her considerable powers of expression to disguise her bitterness and malice with such sweet expressions of faint praise whilst never losing an opportunity to portray herself as the unwitting victim of this absolute cad. You have to feel sorry for the guy, it must have been hell getting into a verbal fight with such a clever user of words as a professional poet. Recommended for those who want to be, are about to be or actually are divorced from a terrible man (especially if he went off with someone he met on gay. com).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I continued reading past the first chapter only by accident. I had set up the book on my nursing stand, and each time I finished nursing, I was too distracted with the baby to remember to change out the book. But if I'd had free hands, I'd have thrown it against the wall. In this book, Rhoda Janzen commits the following crimes: --she makes fun of her family members for being backwards hicks -- in mean ways --she makes snarky comments about almost everyone and everything -- snarky comments which she I continued reading past the first chapter only by accident. I had set up the book on my nursing stand, and each time I finished nursing, I was too distracted with the baby to remember to change out the book. But if I'd had free hands, I'd have thrown it against the wall. In this book, Rhoda Janzen commits the following crimes: --she makes fun of her family members for being backwards hicks -- in mean ways --she makes snarky comments about almost everyone and everything -- snarky comments which she thinks are very clever, but usually are not --she writes as if she is telling the story to her best friend. Perhaps that is an effective technique for some types of books, but it never works here. Rather, it sounds as if she is re-working material that played well at the water cooler at work, but has now lost its mooring and audience. --she tries hard, way too hard, to be funny --she repeatedly pokes fun at Mennonites, Christianity, and religion in general and -- worse yet -- associates belief with lack of education and inexperience. --in spite of Herculean efforts, she fails to be funny --when she fails to be funny, she often resorts to jokes about farting, pooping, or other bodily functions --her chapters wander around without knowing where they are going, and she follows any tangent that she thinks will yield her a laugh -- did I mention that she is constantly mugging for laughs? --she fails to understand that most of the aspects of her childhood that she characterizes as hopelessly "Menno" are not particularly unusual. She was an awkward child embarrassed by her unpolished appearance. This is not enough to make her fascinating. --It reads as a rough transcript of a lot of conversations with her sister and best friend--both in structure (the randomness of the flow of thoughts in any given chapter) and in tone (the way in which she seems completely sure that we will feel the same way that she does and take her point of view). The fundamental problem underlying all of these issues is that Janzen can't decide whom she wants for an audience. Most of the time, it seems that this book is a rough transcript of jokes she's told to her academic friends -- jokes where the Mennonite practices of her childhood are punchlines that only urbane, sophisticated academics can fully understand. This comes across as obnoxious. But then she drifts into a more sympathetic portrayal of some of these characters, particularly her mother, as if she is writing for those who are able to take a more nuanced and sympathetic view of religious cultures. Anyone even remotely capable of such a view would have been completely put off by the first tendency, however. In short, I don't understand how this book ever was published. I really had no idea that such a manuscript could get through editing. But here it is. For the record: I am an English professor, raised in a strict, conservative Christian family in a backwoods, rural area, who now lives in a town full of clever, urban sophisticates. Rhoda, you do not speak for those of us who have walked that road. Let's get that clear.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    I read the first 60 pages of this book one night when I couldn't sleep. It had me laughing hysterically many times in that 60 pages. The kind of laughter where you're glad no one else is around because you're honking and braying and sucking in air like some kind of asthmatic donkey. Sad to say, she pretty much used up her good material in that first 60 pages. The rest of the book is well-written enough. (She is, after all, an English prof.) But it consists mostly of long, rambling shaggy-dog sto I read the first 60 pages of this book one night when I couldn't sleep. It had me laughing hysterically many times in that 60 pages. The kind of laughter where you're glad no one else is around because you're honking and braying and sucking in air like some kind of asthmatic donkey. Sad to say, she pretty much used up her good material in that first 60 pages. The rest of the book is well-written enough. (She is, after all, an English prof.) But it consists mostly of long, rambling shaggy-dog stories that would be interesting only if you actually knew the people in the stories. The choice of stories/anecdotes seems awfully random. She starts in on one, then shifts with her stream of consciousness to a different story from long ago, then drifts back into the original story. A few good laughs here and there, but nothing like the early part of the book. I lost count of how many times she had to remind us throughout the book that her husband left her for a guy named Bob that he met on Gay.com. We get it, okay? That's the chance you take when you marry an admittedly bi-sexual guy just six weeks after you meet him. And honey, his sexuality was the least of your problems. The last chapter on Mennonite history and practices is very interesting and worth the read. I never knew that the Amish were rebel Mennonites who broke away in 1693 because the Mennonites were "too liberal." Huh! Who'd a thunk?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    All things considered what an upbeat & funny story. The way she chose to deal with her husband leaving her for a man, without excessive bitterness or vindictiveness showed a lot of class. She dealt with the Mennonite Community in the same way, providing clear & logical reasons for why she left the faith while refraining from taking cheap shots. When her life was crumbling around her they were there for her with steaming bowls of borscht. I fell in love with her mother:) Good writer, witty & smar All things considered what an upbeat & funny story. The way she chose to deal with her husband leaving her for a man, without excessive bitterness or vindictiveness showed a lot of class. She dealt with the Mennonite Community in the same way, providing clear & logical reasons for why she left the faith while refraining from taking cheap shots. When her life was crumbling around her they were there for her with steaming bowls of borscht. I fell in love with her mother:) Good writer, witty & smart. The last chapter where she answers all your questions about what Mennonites are really like? Hilarious! Retraction: Okay, some vindictiveness. She did write a tell-all memoir after all:) Humour bite...“Will somebody please tell me why husbands never seem to ditch their wives until the wives develop a varicose vein the size of a Roman aqueduct? It’s like they’re WAITING for the vein. If our husbands must leave us for guys named Bob, why can’t they do it pre-vein?”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is going to sound weird, but I up to page 184 and then just stopped (and there are only 241 pages in the book). I think I kept reading because I had no other book to read. Finally, I came to a realization: "I don't like this book and I have ZERO interest in what might occur in the final forty pages." I disliked the author's voice. I'm not sure how to explain the voice, but the best description I can give is that it sounds like she's trying too hard to be breezy and funny and witty...and I fo This is going to sound weird, but I up to page 184 and then just stopped (and there are only 241 pages in the book). I think I kept reading because I had no other book to read. Finally, I came to a realization: "I don't like this book and I have ZERO interest in what might occur in the final forty pages." I disliked the author's voice. I'm not sure how to explain the voice, but the best description I can give is that it sounds like she's trying too hard to be breezy and funny and witty...and I found her to be neither breezy nor funny nor witty. I had hope for this book--a tale of a forty-something woman who goes back home after splitting from a verbally abusive and (surprise!) gay husband. I was interested to hear the story of how someone recovers from a heartbreak like this. But instead, most of the book is about memories of her Mennonite childhood, which I found dull and tedious. There were a few moments involving her mother which I found funny, but they were few and far between. I said I read 184 pages; that's not true. It would be more accurate to say I read/skimmed/flipped through 184 pages, because more often than not I just felt so bored. Overall, I rarely give ratings of "1" but I just cannot drum up much of anything positive to say about this book

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I'm actually shocked by how many people seemed to dislike this memoir. It has a rather grim 3.17 average rating as of my writing this review, and a lot of the negatives are rather scathing. I have a soft spot for books with low ratings and thought the premise was intriguing, so I threw caution to the wind and picked up the book anyway. I enjoy memoirs written by women, especially if their experiences differ vastly from my own. As a non-r Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest I'm actually shocked by how many people seemed to dislike this memoir. It has a rather grim 3.17 average rating as of my writing this review, and a lot of the negatives are rather scathing. I have a soft spot for books with low ratings and thought the premise was intriguing, so I threw caution to the wind and picked up the book anyway. I enjoy memoirs written by women, especially if their experiences differ vastly from my own. As a non-religious person, I was immensely curious about what the life of someone raised in the environment of such a restrictive religion must be like. Rhoda Janzen was raised as a Mennonite, which is very similar to being Amish except slightly more liberal - modern clothing is okay, and they don't appear to abstain from using technology. As an adult, she went her separate ways and ended up marrying a man who had bipolar disorder and was also bisexual, who turned out to be abusive and then left her for another man. As if that weren't enough, at the end of her marriage she had a hysterectomy that resulted in two of her organs being punctured, corrective surgery, and a pee bag. So basically, life was pretty sucky for her. Ms. Janzen recounts her interesting life with a lack of political correctness and good humor. It's hard not to admire her seemingly indefatigable spirit, or be amused by her interactions with her family. Some of the negative reviews for this book said that her treatment of her family seemed cruel in print, but honestly, their portrayal seemed more quirky and eccentric than malicious; I've read RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, after all. I actually really liked her mom a lot (not her brothers, though). At the back of the book is a brief history about the Mennonite religion, as well as some recipes from Mennonite cooking. I learned a lot about Mennonites by reading this book, and I really enjoyed the stories of Janzen and her family. She's a professor now, and has near-perfect grammar. Her sentence structure was a pleasure to read - I say that as a grammar snob, myself - and her sense of comedic timing is fairly hilarious when she's being funny. I'm not sure why this book seems so unpopular, but I'm guessing the religion angle and her seeming disdain for propriety contributed to that. Well, I liked it. 3.5 to 4 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book is an example of turning lemons into lemonade as only a skilled writer can do. Have you ever noticed that some of the most interesting stories we tell others are those personal experiences where everything went wrong? Well, Rhoda Janzen has written about a time in her life when everything that could go wrong happened. Her skilled writing has turned her memories into an entertaining, often humorous, memoir. Contrary to Thomas Wolfe's novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," Rhoda went home to This book is an example of turning lemons into lemonade as only a skilled writer can do. Have you ever noticed that some of the most interesting stories we tell others are those personal experiences where everything went wrong? Well, Rhoda Janzen has written about a time in her life when everything that could go wrong happened. Her skilled writing has turned her memories into an entertaining, often humorous, memoir. Contrary to Thomas Wolfe's novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," Rhoda went home to heal. Apparently, if you're Mennonite you can go home. It sort of puts the old home folks into a new light. (See "Note" at end of this review.) Much of Janzen's book reads as a script from the monolog of a stand-up comedian. Her narrative wanders through her life experiences in random order moving from health problems to marital difficulties, from stories about growing up in a Mennonite family to almost attending a Mennonite seminary. She seems to accept the possible premise that her life may have been different had she decided to attend the seminary. But instead she obtained an English PhD from UCLA, won some prizes along the way, and landed a professorship at a liberal arts college. All these stories are told in a flippant humorous format that makes light of even the miserable times in her life. In a chapter titled "The Trump Shall Sound" she adopts a bit more somber tone to discuss her view of religion. She explains why she has not stayed within the faith of her ancestors, and then proceeds to give some compliments to the Mennonites that she has left. "Consider what happens when scholarship and education expose many of the assumptions of organized religion as intellectually untenable. ... Yet I cannot deny the genuine warmth my mother seems to radiate--indeed, that all these Mennonites seem to radiate. It’s clear that this Mennonite community is the real deal. They really try to practice what they preach." She acknowledges that religion can help some people live a virtuous life. "If in the service of choosing virtuous behavior we need to practice some odd belief, where's the harm? ... there are many paths to virtue, many ways of creating the patterns of behavior that result in habitual resistance to human badness. ... At this stage of my life, I am willing to accept not only that there are many paths to virtue, but that our experiences on these varied paths might be real. " She proceeds to give her own "self-help" advice in a chapter titled "And That's OK" where she describes her 12-step program for people recovering from a divorce based on her personal experiences. There is plenty of irony and humor in her comments, but it certainly has a serious side. I don't think she wants to be considered as a self-help guru. But she certainly lays out some suggestions that I imagine to be good discussion starters for book groups that read and discuss her book. When people learn that she is divorced and single they often try to fix her up with dates with single men. So she proceeds in a chapter titled "The Raisin Bombshell" to explain her definition of sexiness in men. She says that she and her sister, " ... never met a datable Mennonite man." I began to feel less sympathy for her marital misfortunes after she made that comment. (In the interest of full disclosure I must admit here to being a Mennonite man, though admittedly undatable due my marriage status.) She even includes an irreverent Appendix at the end of the book in which she tries to anticipate the questions of readers about the Mennonites. A quote from the Appendix that caught my attention is, "A liberal Mennonite is an oxymoron... ." She goes on to explain how Mennonites are so conservative that they end of being sort of liberal -- anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-consumer, and advocates for simple lifestyle and the environment. I was not very impressed with her knowledge of the historical reasons for the Amish-Mennonite split. All I can say is, don't let this woman write the Wikipedia article about Mennonites! I'll grant her a top grade for creative writing, but it's just as well that she didn't choose to be a historian. I couldn't help but notice that Janzen makes numerous references to things Mennonite, but never mentions that the church denomination in which she grew up goes by the name, "Mennonite Brethren." I can understand that most who read this book probably don't care about this distinction. But for those who are familiar with the different shades of Mennonite, it does make a difference. For a review of the book from the Mennonite Weekly Review newspaper click here. Here's another review written by a Mennonite. (Link to 2nd Review) This second review is written by Shirley Hershey Showalter, past-president of Goshen College. Her review is quite long and toward the end she raises the issue of the author's responsibility for the feelings of the people about whom they write in their memoir. I can understand the discomfort of some Mennonites--and I speak as one myself--who feel that the generalizations contained in the book can be misleading. But Janzen is writing about her experiences from her perspective with just enough embellishment to be entertaining. She doesn't pretend to be writing an objective unbiased news report. I congratulate her on being able to create an entertaining tale from the story of her life. I just hope other members of her family, her mother in particular, have a sense of humor. She makes numerous humorous remarks about them, and they may be surprised to see their foibles published so publicly. My advice to parents--don't raise your child to be a writer. Otherwise you may see every disagreement you've had with your child published in their memoir. After reading this book I've decided to be careful what I say and do around writers who may be potential memoir writers. You never know. Note: I recommend You Never Gave Me a Name: One Mennonite Woman's Story by Katie Funk Wiebe for an alternative memoir of a Mennonite Woman. (Click Here for my Review.) The following short review is from PageADay's Book Lovers Calendar for August 26, 2017: Rhoda Janzen hit a rough patch in life after she turned 40. Her husband of 15 years left her for another man, and she was seriously injured in a car accident. Needing to heal her body and soul, Janzen returned home to her Mennonite family for some much-needed love. Janzen reflects on her role in a complicated marriage and shares hysterical stories about Mennonite life. People magazine rightly called the memoir “hilarious and touching.” MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS, by Rhoda Janzen (Henry Holt, 2009)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Norah

    Dear writers of memoirs: your books still need to follow a plot arc. It doesn't matter that you are writing stuff that happened to you. You can't just start writing about an experience and then throw in anecdote A because you happen to remember it and then include random scenes just because they're funny without giving us the overall context and point of your book. I should know in the first chapter of your book what book is about. This book does not live up to its potential. Janzen has great mat Dear writers of memoirs: your books still need to follow a plot arc. It doesn't matter that you are writing stuff that happened to you. You can't just start writing about an experience and then throw in anecdote A because you happen to remember it and then include random scenes just because they're funny without giving us the overall context and point of your book. I should know in the first chapter of your book what book is about. This book does not live up to its potential. Janzen has great material, really, really great material, and she's a decent writer, but she needs an editor. This read like a rough draft -- there's no real structure and therefore while reading about her childhood as a mennonite, her religious family, her disastrous marriage, etc was fascinating, the book wasn't going anywhere. It's more a collection of anecdotes than anything else and I don't know what Janzen was really trying to say. As the author is an English professor, I think she could have done a better job. Still, this was a fun and bizarre read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Helena

    Full disclosure: this book annoyed me enough that I stopped at chapter 6. Maybe it gets better, but I wasn't in the mood to waste my time finding out. First, know that if you are looking for insight into the Mennonite way of life, this is not the book for you. Though the author was raised in a Mennonite community, and returns to it when her marriage ends, she is not a practicing Mennonite herself. She actually tends to mock her family in what may be intended to be a lighthearted way, but sometime Full disclosure: this book annoyed me enough that I stopped at chapter 6. Maybe it gets better, but I wasn't in the mood to waste my time finding out. First, know that if you are looking for insight into the Mennonite way of life, this is not the book for you. Though the author was raised in a Mennonite community, and returns to it when her marriage ends, she is not a practicing Mennonite herself. She actually tends to mock her family in what may be intended to be a lighthearted way, but sometimes it comes of as sort of mean. My main issue with this book is that the writing feels strained--like the author is really trying to be funny, but she's just not quite getting there. There's also a lot of profanity, and it's not really employed in a useful way--it almost feels as though Janzen is saying "I shall rebel against my Mennonite roots and drop an F-bomb here, just because I can!" I don't mind cursing if it serves a purpose, but this book really didn't need it, especially in the quantity used. Here's anothing thing: Janzen makes a point of mentioning that she is an English professor and a grammarian who is often asked to edit her colleagues' research papers and has in fact taken on a paying editing gig in the wake of her divorce. Apparently, these editorial skills don't extend to fact-checking (in which her copyeditor also failed her), since the text is sprinkled with such things as "Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers" (the actual name is spelled Bonne Bell) and "shoe-in" (should be shoo-in). I know these are small--even petty--things, but I'm a copyeditor myself, and it bothered me to see these things in a text written by someone so pleased with her own editing skills. I could go on about other small things that bugged me, but I think they only bothered me because I was already so annoyed with the book and author overall. This book is quite popular--I was number 87 in line to get it from the library--so clearly there are many others who do not share my opinion. Maybe it's just me on this one, I don't know.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Bergren

    What I liked: A peek into a modern Mennonite's life, a woman who has left the community and examines how that foundation formed her. Some truly funny moments. The author is insightful--to a certain measure--and puts herself 100% out there in terms of vulnerability, which I admire. What I didn't like: I felt the author was mean and crass and disrespectful to her loving, and amazingly tolerant, parents. I can handle sarcasm and love dry wit, but it has to be balanced (a la Anne Lamott). I empathize What I liked: A peek into a modern Mennonite's life, a woman who has left the community and examines how that foundation formed her. Some truly funny moments. The author is insightful--to a certain measure--and puts herself 100% out there in terms of vulnerability, which I admire. What I didn't like: I felt the author was mean and crass and disrespectful to her loving, and amazingly tolerant, parents. I can handle sarcasm and love dry wit, but it has to be balanced (a la Anne Lamott). I empathized with Janzen to a certain measure (she goes through a terrible time), but there was ultimately no redemption in the end, no closure, no true healing, no full circle--which was why I finished the book at all. When I turned the last page, I said aloud, "That's IT??" All that was left was a tongue-in-cheek "history" of the Mennonites section. She didn't go home to heal--she appears to have returned home to gather enough fodder for her book. P.S. Went to book club last night; 1 out of 8 loved it; 4 bailed on it partway through because of reasons outlined above; 3 of us finished it and had similar thoughts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    Yes, this book was “laugh out loud” funny in many places and Rhoda Janzen’s humorous tone made it a quick and easy read, but I was puzzled by why she chose the path she did and kept looking for more than this book contained. Throughout the reading of this entire book, I kept wondering one question. Why?...WHY did Rhoda so totally throw off the religion of her youth in her 20’s? Why did she seem almost hell bent to cast off every vestige of Christianity and Mennonitism in particular? WHY did she m Yes, this book was “laugh out loud” funny in many places and Rhoda Janzen’s humorous tone made it a quick and easy read, but I was puzzled by why she chose the path she did and kept looking for more than this book contained. Throughout the reading of this entire book, I kept wondering one question. Why?...WHY did Rhoda so totally throw off the religion of her youth in her 20’s? Why did she seem almost hell bent to cast off every vestige of Christianity and Mennonitism in particular? WHY did she marry an atheist who totally denigrated her background? (She couldn’t even listen to hymns or hum them around him!) This marriage must have broken her parents’ hearts, given that they are devout Christians. WHY did she marry someone that she knew was bisexual? Isn’t that just inviting trouble into your house? She seemed to have no major beef with her parents; she adores her mother and finds her refreshingly delightful- a Proverbs 31 virtuous woman, nor does she have any major criticism of her father, a theologian and leader in the church. It would seem that they raised her lovingly and kindly. Rhoda’s casual, flippant way of speaking/writing about her life made me feel like there is another, much more serious and searching book that has not yet been written. She has a lot of psychological and spiritual issues that have not been examined in this book. And for someone who strives to be so intellectual, who prides herself on worldly wisdom (dear God, whatever that is), I was just stumped by her stupidity. It is certainly easy to be enamored of the world, but it would seem that Rhoda threw out the baby with the bath water when she embarked on higher education. There is a promo Rhoda did for this book on “videos” on the web and I came to the conclusion that she is something of a quick-change artist. She has the ability to almost chameleon-like change her appearance...you would not recognize her from the book jacket photo or from the photos she uses on her promo. Her delivery is sassy. She tosses her story in your face; I found the breezy flippancy in her manner off-putting. She repeated the tale of her sister-in-law’s rudeness at Thanksgiving...but it would seem that for any rudeness aimed at her, she has certainly been willing and able to fling it back. It’s “the pot calling the kettle black.” I read in the “Mennonite Weekly” that she has remarried a man of faith and returned to the church. The working title for her next book is “Backslider” and I hope this is a kinder book that gives up the sarcastic castigation of her family’s people and replaces it with understanding of self.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Debbie "DJ"

    I had no idea what to expect of this book, but it is hilarious! I had been needing a break from some heavier reading, and this was just the ticket. I would love to hear the audio version as this author is a true comedian. Her story tells of the ending of her fifteen year marriage to a guy named Bob, who her husband met on gay.com. She takes refuse in in going home to her family who are Mennonites. Somewhere around half way through this memoir takes a turn, and while still being humorous, a lot of I had no idea what to expect of this book, but it is hilarious! I had been needing a break from some heavier reading, and this was just the ticket. I would love to hear the audio version as this author is a true comedian. Her story tells of the ending of her fifteen year marriage to a guy named Bob, who her husband met on gay.com. She takes refuse in in going home to her family who are Mennonites. Somewhere around half way through this memoir takes a turn, and while still being humorous, a lot of life's true meaning tumbled forth. In realizing she is co-dependent, she makes her own 12 steps, which had me laughing out loud. She talks about understanding our humanness, and those around us, forgiveness, and looking at one's own side of the street. While others hold on to their pain or victimization, not Janzen. She is able to move forward with her life. While the Mennonite faith was not discussed seriously throughout the book, the endnotes have a very informative account of their history and beliefs. A quick side note...pay attention to the characters names. At first they breezed right past me, then I realized how entertaining they were in there own right. This is a quick funny read that is bound to lift your spirits!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    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 gay.com" (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 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 gay.com" (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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I don't often go for memoirs, but this one was of personal interest to me, and turned out to be really well done. Though some of the Russian Mennonite references were unfamiliar to me, with my Swiss/German (and primarily Midwestern) Mennonite heritage, a lot of it hit close to home. Such as this passage about the conflict between the author's Mennonite upbringing and her professional career and adult life: "Consider how impossible it is, for example, to aspire to the role of virtuous woman when p I don't often go for memoirs, but this one was of personal interest to me, and turned out to be really well done. Though some of the Russian Mennonite references were unfamiliar to me, with my Swiss/German (and primarily Midwestern) Mennonite heritage, a lot of it hit close to home. Such as this passage about the conflict between the author's Mennonite upbringing and her professional career and adult life: "Consider how impossible it is, for example, to aspire to the role of virtuous woman when professional commitments dramatically interfere with jam delivery to oldsters. Consider what happens when scholarhip and education expose many of the assumptions of organized religion as intellectually untenable. Belief in literal angels, for instance, is something I am not prepared to endorse. Yet I cannot deny the genuine warmth my mother seems to radiate -- indeed, that all these Mennonites seem to radiate. It's clear that this Mennonite community is the real deal. They really do try to practice what they preach." (166) For me, this embodies the contradiction I feel sometimes: I love Mennonites, but I'm just not one, and I can't be, and for that I sometimes feel sorry. But it doesn't make me any less good of a person, and I'm happy to be who I am. I'm sure many people who have left the church of their upbringing feel similarly. Anyway, I loved reading about Janzen's messed-up life and enjoyed the way the story unfolded. The guide to Mennonites in the back of the book was super entertaining and informative, even for a Mennonite!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    This is one of those memoirs that came from the "Everyone has a story to tell" memoir fad. I love memoirs. I don't love memoirs that seem to be the author writing to see the words in print (sort of like people who talk to hear their own voices). Janzen has a talent for storytelling, but I didn't see much value in the story itself. Maybe I'm too far removed from the situation to appreciate the story. The writing was fun and the book is an easy read. I hoped for something a little more. I understo This is one of those memoirs that came from the "Everyone has a story to tell" memoir fad. I love memoirs. I don't love memoirs that seem to be the author writing to see the words in print (sort of like people who talk to hear their own voices). Janzen has a talent for storytelling, but I didn't see much value in the story itself. Maybe I'm too far removed from the situation to appreciate the story. The writing was fun and the book is an easy read. I hoped for something a little more. I understood the anger about her husband leaving her for a man and his bipolar issues, but I didn't feel any emotional healing. It's almost as if Janzen was afraid to tell her own story and relied on her family's quirks to get her through the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    “You know perfectly well that a tractor can be hard work and fun too. Like marriage.” Janzen comes from the kind of family where her mother uses a tractor as a metaphor, recommends marriage to a first cousin, and serves “embarrassing” foods like borscht and persimmon cookies. This is a fun and extremely quick read about how Janzen gave the Mennonite tradition she’d forsaken a second look after her life fell apart in her early forties: her husband left her for Bob, a man he met on a gay dating si “You know perfectly well that a tractor can be hard work and fun too. Like marriage.” Janzen comes from the kind of family where her mother uses a tractor as a metaphor, recommends marriage to a first cousin, and serves “embarrassing” foods like borscht and persimmon cookies. This is a fun and extremely quick read about how Janzen gave the Mennonite tradition she’d forsaken a second look after her life fell apart in her early forties: her husband left her for Bob, a man he met on a gay dating site; and she was in a serious car accident that left her dependent on her parents’ help. It’s more in the form of linked autobiographical essays than a straight memoir, so she keeps cycling round to some of the same themes, and it gets less laugh-out-loud funny as it goes on. Still, I was impressed by how the author has managed to pull what’s good from experiences most would consider disastrous. For instance, of her 15-year marriage, she says “Is it ever really a waste of time to love someone truly and deeply, with everything you have?” More lines I appreciated (on not having kids): “Shouldn’t human beings assess their biological urges as well as admit them? What if we're having babies to feel less lonely, more needed? If so, we’re using someone to make us feel better about ourselves. That’s a little creepy.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sherard H

    If you liked David Sedaris, or if you liked Elizabeth Gilbert, then you should add Rhoda Janzen to your reading list. Janzen, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, is the kind of educated author who we should all aspire to, and here’s why: Janzen’s niche isn’t that her husband left her for a dude he met on Gay.com, or that her family is so Mennonite they used to send her to elementary school with a thermos full of Borscht (although both are equally traumatic enough to If you liked David Sedaris, or if you liked Elizabeth Gilbert, then you should add Rhoda Janzen to your reading list. Janzen, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, is the kind of educated author who we should all aspire to, and here’s why: Janzen’s niche isn’t that her husband left her for a dude he met on Gay.com, or that her family is so Mennonite they used to send her to elementary school with a thermos full of Borscht (although both are equally traumatic enough to write a good short story about); it’s that while describing these things, Janzen’s background as a scholar shines through, blended with a helping of humor, and fair share of wit. I kept a dictionary nearby; she sometimes uses words that don’t even show up on the GRE. But it’s what she does with these words, or rather what she doesn’t do – and that’s hit you over the head with them. And while this novel may not leave you with a profoundly new sense of self – in fact, some of its potty humor even had me a bit embarrassed that I was finding myself amused – it’s at least one entertaining read. I’ll leave you with a passage: “One day Nick came home with a pair of Yohji Yamamoto gloves that had cost $385. This was in 1996, mind you. Granted, these gloves were wondrously conceived: over an interior pebbled leather glove, a leather mitt unzipped and folded back into a gauntlet of sorts. It was just the kind of witty sartorial gesture that a dandified socialite might affect, very Oscar Wilde, if Oscar Wilde would have ditched the lily and firmed up the tummy and got full-sleeve tats designed by the famed Los Angeles artist Bob Roberts. Nick wasn’t a dandified socialite, though. He was a grad student,” (85).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book does not live up to its description on the back cover or its blurb on Goodreads--it is hardly a "moving memoir" and is certainly not in the same class as Ann Lamott's or even Nora Ephron's work. The author, after living in "the world" for many years. has no place to seek refuge after a series of tragedies in her life but her parents' Mennonite home--going back to her roots. Janzen's comparisons of the Mennonite way of life to more mainstream American culture are interesting. The book h This book does not live up to its description on the back cover or its blurb on Goodreads--it is hardly a "moving memoir" and is certainly not in the same class as Ann Lamott's or even Nora Ephron's work. The author, after living in "the world" for many years. has no place to seek refuge after a series of tragedies in her life but her parents' Mennonite home--going back to her roots. Janzen's comparisons of the Mennonite way of life to more mainstream American culture are interesting. The book has its moments of humor--one episode of the 42-year-old Janzen meeting a 27-year-old grandson of a friend for a date is laugh-out-loud funny. However, there is much too much of the vulgar and unrefined in the book, even if that's "the way things really were"--the writing doesn't have to reflect "reality" blow-by-blow or repeatedly. And while Janzen makes an effort to be respectful of the faith of her childhood, she seems somewhat disrespectful of her parents at times. The appendix in the back of the book that explains (briefly) the history of the Mennonites and how they differ from the Amish is interesting. (They went their separate ways in the 1600s, because the Mennonites were too liberal, which should elicit a chuckle.)This one isn't really worth it, in my opinion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Warning to all readers--do not, repeat, do not read this book while sitting in front of a class of college students who are taking an exam. My history students kept looking up from their exams every time I burst out laughing, and the occasional snorts caused a few of them to put their fingers up to their lips and shush, yes, actually shush me. They had better watch that finger body language with me. This is a very funny book about some very unfunny subjects. Rhoda Janzen, who teaches creative wr Warning to all readers--do not, repeat, do not read this book while sitting in front of a class of college students who are taking an exam. My history students kept looking up from their exams every time I burst out laughing, and the occasional snorts caused a few of them to put their fingers up to their lips and shush, yes, actually shush me. They had better watch that finger body language with me. This is a very funny book about some very unfunny subjects. Rhoda Janzen, who teaches creative writing at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and who was the poet laureate of California in both 1994 and 1997, was married for 15 years to a charming, emotionally abusive husband who announced one morning that he was leaving her for a man named Bob who he had met on gay.com. He moves out leaving her with a fabulous lake front house with an equally fabulous mortgage. Six days later, she is in a major car accident and, feeling as if she has plumbed the depths, Janzen decides to take a semester off and move back in with her parents in California. Did I mention that Janzen was raised in a Mennonite community? In fact, her father was the head of the Mennonite Church in both Canada and the United States. As she put it, he was like the Mennonite Pope, but in sandals, socks, and plaid shorts. Janzen admits that when she left home for college, she put behind her the teachings of the Mennonite Church and entered into secular society with wild abandon. In fact, her husband (you remember, he's now with Bob from gay.com) doesn't even believe in God and mocks her for her religious upbringing. What she finds when she drags her bruised soul and body back home is that the Mennonite community embraces her with both open arms and some distinctly odd advice. At age 43, Rhonda Janzen discovers that sometimes you are forced to go back before you are able to move forward. This is a wonderful memoir and ultimately Janzen tells an uplifting story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    I wish there was a star rating that meant "I laughed out loud several times, had to look up a few words in the dictionary, and regularly swore I could hear the voice of one of my dearest friends narrating to me from this warm, welcoming, funny, painful, strange familiar story". Or maybe, to paraphase the words of Steve Martin, something along the lines of "it reached down, grabbed my heart and squoze it." Yeah. That would do. I wish there was a star rating that meant "I laughed out loud several times, had to look up a few words in the dictionary, and regularly swore I could hear the voice of one of my dearest friends narrating to me from this warm, welcoming, funny, painful, strange familiar story". Or maybe, to paraphase the words of Steve Martin, something along the lines of "it reached down, grabbed my heart and squoze it." Yeah. That would do.

  21. 5 out of 5

    She-Readers Book Club

    I think me not being into this story was more about me and what's on my mind in life right now than it was about the book itself so I feel a little guilty not giving 5 stars. Someone else might love this story so please don't be deterred by this review but my impression was that I didn't take much from it. It had some funny parts and some good stories about her Mom but I just didn't find it to be moving. That being said, I'm in a rut! Hopefully the next book I pick up will be the right one for m I think me not being into this story was more about me and what's on my mind in life right now than it was about the book itself so I feel a little guilty not giving 5 stars. Someone else might love this story so please don't be deterred by this review but my impression was that I didn't take much from it. It had some funny parts and some good stories about her Mom but I just didn't find it to be moving. That being said, I'm in a rut! Hopefully the next book I pick up will be the right one for me right now.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lara Lillibridge

    I started reading this on Kindle, but switched to Audible so I didn't have to put it down!Smartly written and often funny memoir about life after divorce as well as life in a minority religion. My only criticism is that a small primer on Mennonites (which is provided at the end) would have been helpful at the beginning. I started reading this on Kindle, but switched to Audible so I didn't have to put it down!Smartly written and often funny memoir about life after divorce as well as life in a minority religion. My only criticism is that a small primer on Mennonites (which is provided at the end) would have been helpful at the beginning.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Athena

    4 stars for me, with wacky relatives & odd religions in the background 3 stars in general I laughed a lot while reading this memoir. It's not without its issues but overall I found it to be an entertaining read and I adore this woman's mother - who wouldn't!? Perhaps that's the grace of the book, seeing the author's obvious love for her family even though you know that something must have been so grating to Janzen that she so vigorously left the faith and structures of her youth behind. As she's w 4 stars for me, with wacky relatives & odd religions in the background 3 stars in general I laughed a lot while reading this memoir. It's not without its issues but overall I found it to be an entertaining read and I adore this woman's mother - who wouldn't!? Perhaps that's the grace of the book, seeing the author's obvious love for her family even though you know that something must have been so grating to Janzen that she so vigorously left the faith and structures of her youth behind. As she's writing about coming home & viewing her family from the outside I think the book would've been less Light Humor and more meaningful had she really addressed what's clearly an underlying issue for a lot of her life choices. I really did enjoy this book & laughed a LOT, I'd recommend it to people and might even reread it: Janzen has a finely-honed talent for academic snark, always amusing, and tells a great story. The description of a family soup dinner with four different conversations going on practically had me in tears: obviously she can write. But … but but but. The book raised issues for me that kept poking out from beneath the surface; I wanted to recommend a good therapist to her throughout most of the reading and the laughing. She very amusingly dances around the roles we women create for ourselves in our relationships, and specifically about how she has approached her relations with men. That may be why this review turned out so bitchy. I expected and thoroughly enjoyed her shots at her Ex, especially given the financial circumstances of the divorce although the 'Bob' factor from gay.com was an amusing little fillip. Heck, who doesn't love a good Ex-trouncing once in a while! Oddly, some readers apparently expected to learn about Mennonite-ism from this book: frankly I don't look to the memoir genre for theological enlightenment and I think readers learn enough about the order Janzen was raised in to follow the book. What I questioned through the laughing though was why Janzen chose to stay in a marriage that didn't seem to be working for her. She appeared to have formed a far more passive role for herself in her 'atheist' marriage than she'd have had in a traditional Mennonite marriage, and she stuck with it as if divorce wasn't an option. She seemed totally subordinate in her marriage and very willing to blame it all on being Mennonite. She "couldn't" hum hymns while she house-cleaned? How did he know they were hymns? My faith group doesn't sing, I wouldn't recognize a hymn from a folksong for the most part, especially Mennonite hymns. I understand the urge for freedom to pursue scholarship but she apparently made a youthful relationship mistake and never, what, realized it? Dealt with it, obviously. She seemed to deal with marital issues by creating what she assumed a 'good' marriage would be, based on a Mennonite child's perceptions perhaps, and then locked herself into it with blinders on. I was left wondering if she'd ever dated many non-Menno men after she'd freed herself from what were, for her, the constraints of faith, and also what her more mature position on that faith might be. After all, Mennonites come in many flavors, there was even a blog called 'The Femonite' written by a female Mennonite scholar … Mennonites aren't Amish, women can & do pursue degrees and careers in many branches of Menno-ism. At the end of the book she gives a bland little answer about faith becoming more important to her and she's even 'going to church' ( as though 'faith' and 'church/temple/mosque' are synonyms) but it's kind of a throw-away statement; it's easier for her to talk about tears at the end of a marriage than it is for her to talk about the often equally agonizing decisions regarding faith choices. Also, in the Extras section where she answers 'questions,' she disingenuously doesn't answer, instead using it as an opportunity to continue with her Snark of Academia narrative mode: (Question) What's up with the head coverings that so many Mennonite women wear? (Janzen) My question exactly … I suspect that head coverings are just cheaper than hair products. Funny, but as a Yearly Meeting Quaker with cousins who still keep plain (i.e., get mistaken for Amish), I know Janzen knows the real answer: it's a modesty thing & sometimes an indication of adult authority, end of story. Same reason that persons, not just women, of any faith wear head coverings ... of course with the real answer it's harder to successfully work in the hair products line.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    Third time through on this one. I think of it as sort of a literary antacid to all the more heavy topics I am usually immersed in to clear my mind of the frustrations of power politics. I will likely be back to read it again in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of this book as much or maybe even more than the first time around! Rhoda Janzen comes across as very down to earth and as someone who is capable at laughing at her situations while getting through them. I stand by my previous 5- Third time through on this one. I think of it as sort of a literary antacid to all the more heavy topics I am usually immersed in to clear my mind of the frustrations of power politics. I will likely be back to read it again in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of this book as much or maybe even more than the first time around! Rhoda Janzen comes across as very down to earth and as someone who is capable at laughing at her situations while getting through them. I stand by my previous 5-stars and only wish there were more to give. Highly recommended, you will not regret this one! I may need to read this one again! While this is not a book I would normally have picked to read, I'm glad I followed my instinct this time. I recently read another memoir that was touted as humor but, while some parts were interesting, I don't think I even smiled much let alone laughed. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen, on the other hand, I found to be full of funny situations portrayed with sarcastic, self-deprecating humor (my favorite kind). The author has written about a series of bad experiences including her husband of 15 years leaving her for Bob from Gay.com, a serious medical operation, and a car accident in a humanizing way. After all of these events, she decides to go home for a while to take a break from life and reconnect with her parents, siblings, and her Mennonite youth. While she does dip in and out of seriousness, and even explains the basic tenants and beliefs of Mennonites, she also presents many of her life experiences in a light, and some may say, irreverent way that, for me, made this book ultimately more readable. I have to admit that I actually did enjoy reading this book. I can only guess that the lower-than-deserved overall rating may be due to some reviewers' views on religion or seeing what I considered as clever wit as snarky or inappropriate. This should be easily one full star higher than what is shown.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    I was disappointed with this but to be fair, it was partly because I thought it was going to be something it wasn't. I expected to learn about the Mennonite religion and community in a serious way along with the jokes, but that didn't happen. Even in the appendix where there is a section on Mennonite history there was very little that I didn't already know, and I'm not exactly knowledgeable on the subject. But enough of what this isn't. What it is, is an irreverent look at Rhoda Janzen's family a I was disappointed with this but to be fair, it was partly because I thought it was going to be something it wasn't. I expected to learn about the Mennonite religion and community in a serious way along with the jokes, but that didn't happen. Even in the appendix where there is a section on Mennonite history there was very little that I didn't already know, and I'm not exactly knowledgeable on the subject. But enough of what this isn't. What it is, is an irreverent look at Rhoda Janzen's family and relationships, including her recently broken marriage to a non-Mennonite guy with bipolar disorder who has left her for another man. When I say 'irreverent' I mean that literally - she pokes fun at virtually anything that others revere. Another word for it, if you were feeling less generous, might be 'bitchy'. Some parts are funny, but most of the time there is an undertow of bitterness. Some of that is related to her marriage but it seems like a lot goes further back. She is particularly tough on Mennonite women, having left the Mennonite way of life herself. Her mother, mother's friends, sisters-in-law ... all are portrayed as ignorant joke-fodder, while Mennonite men, including her father and brothers, come out virtually unscathed. I couldn't tell if this was a question of permissions (presumably they read a draft and you can imagine that her mother might have allowed herself to be used in this way, while the men might stand on their dignity) or whether Rhoda Janzen had a hangup about being a woman criticizing men. I felt real pain for her mother being exposed like this, even though she does come across as an amazing woman. It's just a pity that Rhoda Janzen is still acting like the 10-year-old who has to claim to despise everything that her mother does, even while she obviously loves her.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It was a bit amusing, but not what I hoped for. In similar fashion to "Eat, Pray, Love" (whose author E.G. endorsed this book - go figure) she has some bad things happen to her so she takes a sabbatical and "goes home" to her Mennonite parents for a while. Her husband of 15 years left her for a gay man, then she got in a pretty serious car wreck. Sad, but then towards the end of the book, she lets you know that from the beginning of their relationship she knew her husband was bisexual, and bipol It was a bit amusing, but not what I hoped for. In similar fashion to "Eat, Pray, Love" (whose author E.G. endorsed this book - go figure) she has some bad things happen to her so she takes a sabbatical and "goes home" to her Mennonite parents for a while. Her husband of 15 years left her for a gay man, then she got in a pretty serious car wreck. Sad, but then towards the end of the book, she lets you know that from the beginning of their relationship she knew her husband was bisexual, and bipolar, and they had already been married and divorced, and remarried. So she was not as blindsided as I originally thought. Then she mentions more than once that she went to her parents to write this book, (explaining that it was hard for her dad to leave her alone while she worked)...so, yeah. She didn't have an epiphany of self or something, she just went home to her quirky parents because, IMO, it made for a good title for the book she already planned to write. She doesn't actually return to her Mennonite roots, per say. Doh. Hardly inspirational. She spends most of her time talking about how awful it was to grow up Mennonite and making fun of her parents, though she is quick to remind us she loves them. Not inspirational, not motivational, and I'm a little ticked that I bought this at the airport for a 5 hour flight, so she made some money off of me. Darn it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A very, very funny memoir, especially towards the beginning. Her life in free-fall after her husband of fifteen years leaves her for a man he met on Gay.com, Ms. Janzen goes home to live with her Mennonite parents. At 43, Janzen had strayed from her conservative upbringing: she wears Manolo Blahniks, sports a PhD in literature from UCLA and keeps her last name when she marries. So when she gets post-divorce dating advice from her mother that involves dating her first cousin Waldemar, I laughed. A very, very funny memoir, especially towards the beginning. Her life in free-fall after her husband of fifteen years leaves her for a man he met on Gay.com, Ms. Janzen goes home to live with her Mennonite parents. At 43, Janzen had strayed from her conservative upbringing: she wears Manolo Blahniks, sports a PhD in literature from UCLA and keeps her last name when she marries. So when she gets post-divorce dating advice from her mother that involves dating her first cousin Waldemar, I laughed. Hard. (Why Waldemar? He drives a tractor and has a good work ethic.) As I read, I wasn't sure how Janzen pulled off some of the descriptions of her family without alienating all of them. Of her mother (the hands-down star of the book), she writes, "Besides being born Mennonite, which is usually its own beauty strike, my mother has no neck. When we were growing up, our mother's head, sprouting directly from her shoulders like a friendly lettuce, became something of a family focus." Hmm...in addition to the lettuce head, maybe her mother also has very thick skin? And a very generous spirit. If the pile of books next to your bed is stacked high, this one probably does not need to move to the top of the heap. That is, unless you need a good mid-life-crisis laugh. If so, move it to the top.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda Wright

    In the beginning we learn of Rhoda's surgery and tragic car accident. Then we learn of her failed marriage to the bipolar and really wacko Nick, who dumps her for Bob from Gay.com. Supposedly she goes home to her Mennonite roots to convalesce. Only the problem with the whole thing is that I never had a clear sense of where Rhoda actually was during this time. Were there some absolutely belly laugh funny moments. Yes!! Her stoic parents and stories about lunch pails and long skirts were delightfu In the beginning we learn of Rhoda's surgery and tragic car accident. Then we learn of her failed marriage to the bipolar and really wacko Nick, who dumps her for Bob from Gay.com. Supposedly she goes home to her Mennonite roots to convalesce. Only the problem with the whole thing is that I never had a clear sense of where Rhoda actually was during this time. Were there some absolutely belly laugh funny moments. Yes!! Her stoic parents and stories about lunch pails and long skirts were delightful. They seemed to move back and forth through time and place so that I never really knew where exactly they happened or what prompted her memory of them. She's cooking in her mother's kitchen and then she's back to work teaching living in her Michigan lake house. All in all the story was very disjointed and lacked any kind of transition. I rate this story a 2 out of 5, not because the story didn't show some promise. It did. It lacked flow and transition and left me feeling out of sorts.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    This book, by Rhoda Janzen, seems to inspire accolades or thumbs down. A quick look at Amazon will find little in between. Sadly, I am in the latter group. After a great beginning in which the author draws the reader in, it falls flat on its face. It was a struggle to finish, it was that boring. Supposedly this is the story of a 40-ish woman who is a Mennonite (non practicing) whose husband leaves her for a guy whom he meets on Gay.com. She has had major surgery from which she recovers and during This book, by Rhoda Janzen, seems to inspire accolades or thumbs down. A quick look at Amazon will find little in between. Sadly, I am in the latter group. After a great beginning in which the author draws the reader in, it falls flat on its face. It was a struggle to finish, it was that boring. Supposedly this is the story of a 40-ish woman who is a Mennonite (non practicing) whose husband leaves her for a guy whom he meets on Gay.com. She has had major surgery from which she recovers and during which he was a prince, but now she is alone and is involved in a major car accident. She goes home to her strict Mennonite family to retreat from her psychic pain and lick her wounds. OK so far. This could be cute. And there are some cute spots -- unfortunately unlike the publisher reviews state, they are not hilarious. I actually found some of the potty humor somewhat juvenile. Who would tell the world that their mother emits world class farts. I mean really -- this is pre-adolescent boy humor. The book is disjointed and unevenly written. Don't waste your money.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    This book was good. Very entertaining. The author has a good sense of humor. Her husband of about 15 years leaves her for a man on gay.com named Bob. She also has various medical problems at this time. She ends up going home to live with her Mennonite parents in a Mennonite community for six months. I learned a lot about Mennonites, I laughed. She is smart and funny. But somehow I think she is too passive and needs more self-confidence. But I liked the book.

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