Rated Reads

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

by Rhoda Janzen

Rated: High

In one week’s time, 43-year-old university professor Rhoda Janzen was dumped by her husband of 15 years for a guy named Bob he met on Gay.com and had a horrible car crash that left her with broken bones and bruises galore. She had already planned on taking a six-month sabbatical, but with her funds now wrecked by the divorce, instead of going somewhere different and interesting to study, she decided to go home to her Mennonite family in California.

Janzen’s memoir is a vastly entertaining string of anecdotes culled casually from her growing-up years, her marriage, her post-divorce experience. She is working through her pain and her disappointment in ex-husband Nick — and disappointment in herself for putting up with his years of bipolar-induced mistreatment. She largely chalks it up to her upbringing as a Mennonite woman: challenging authority is not something that’s encouraged, unless it’s protesting a government’s insistence on waging wars. Janzen has almost nothing negative to say about her background, except to state that she just wanted to break free and have more, that she just wasn’t able to commit so heartily to God. Her affection for her family and her roots puts a soft gloss on all her stories, even as she good-naturedly pokes some fun.

The book doesn’t really go anywhere or resolve any big issues; it just meanders and amuses. One gets the feeling Janzen feels healthier by the end of the book (as much of an “ending” as it has), having had a little time for introspection and perspective. We readers just get to go along for the ride, laughing a bit, sympathizing and clucking our tongues, and enjoying ourselves.

Rated: High, for six uses of strong language, other uses of moderate and mild language, and more than just a few crude and vulgar references.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Book Review Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
  • by Rhoda Janzen
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: