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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir…
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Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Rhoda Janzen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3291475,845 (3.31)80
Member:amyblue
Title:Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Authors:Rhoda Janzen
Info:St. Martin's Griffin (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:read in 2012, memoir, unfinished

Work details

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen (2009)

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  1. 20
    Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (foggidawn)
    foggidawn: Both of these books deal with a woman looking for meaning and trying to deal with failed relationships in their past -- one travels the world, the other goes home, but both have written heartfelt and funny memoirs about the experience.
  2. 10
    The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman (Alliebadger)
  3. 10
    The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir by Elna Baker (LAKobow)
  4. 00
    Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce by Sharyn Wolf (FFortuna)
  5. 00
    I'm Down: A Memoir by Mishna Wolff (amyblue)
    amyblue: Both books are funny and thoughtful memoirs of somewhat unusual childhoods.
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English (148)  Dutch (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
Writing a memoir is walking a fine line. It’s not a biography, so I don’t want to read someone’s entire life story. It’s suppose to be a collection of experiences with a unifying thread. And even though things don’t have to move in logical order, like they might in a novel, that unifying thread and theme is at the heart of every good memoir. Otherwise, what you end up with is tales that are better suited to a blog than a book, and I think that happened here.

Overall, This book was enjoyable. The writing is well-done, as Janzen is an English professor herself. She can be sly and funny and at times, laugh-out-loud witty. Many of her stories are self-deprecating in the best possible ways, and even when she’s lightly poking fun at her Mennonite background, she gives credit where it’s due. I also love that Janzen is audience-aware enough to realize that we might need a crash course is Mennonite history, and provides us an entertaining one. She’s self-aware also, and admits some of her mistakes in print when talking about her marriage, which cannot be an easy thing to do.

However, what keeps this from being anything more than an entertaining read for me is the lack of cohesiveness. The first sixty pages and the last thirty pages of this book are the superb. There’s a common theme, and Janzen is at both her most honest and her funniest. Unfortunately, the middle loses ground and seems quite aimless at times. There are several anecdotes in the middle of the book that don’t add to my understanding of Janzen, her family, her marriage, or her Mennonite background. At times, everything seems irrelevant to the story I believe she’s trying to tell, which is what keeps this from being a stand-out memoir for me.

Final Impression: This is a quick, funny, and entertaining read that seems a bit loss at time. I enjoyed it, but I would have hated paying full price for it. 3/5 stars.

Review first posted on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake. ( )
  Stormydawnc | Jun 23, 2014 |
Not as much about Mennonites as I had thought. More musings on her failed marriage. Not exactly my cup of tea. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I knew from the first sentence that I was in the hands of a writer who would not let me down. You know the feeling? You can relax and let her take you on her journey, wherever it leads. And this one is a lot of fun.

As a memoir, I don't know if the writer learns the lessons she needs to learn from her ordeal. Along the way I found myself saying, "Oh come on, woman!" But she certainly entertains the reader.

Petrea Burchard
Camelot & Vine ( )
  PetreaBurchard | Feb 9, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book. It's sort of Anne Lamott like in the story telling, but Janzen has a unique style. She's a little more 'bookish' in her references, but it's all done in such a friendly casual conversation sort of way that it doesn't interrupt the reading. There were plenty of words or literary references that she made that I didn't have a clue about, but many were related to the Mennonite culture and she goes to great lengths to explain these intricacies.
Very enjoyable, fairly informative, and over-all a fun read. I really like Janzen's writing style. ( )
  ariahfine | Feb 6, 2014 |
A fun and funny read, well written and illuminating. Not a tour-de-force, but a solid 3.5 stars. The reviews for this book confused me a great deal. First, people seem to think Janzen was mean to her family. While many memoirs or works of autobiographical fiction look at family unkindly, and that does not negatively impact my opinion of the work, this book does not. These portraits of family are downright sweet (other than her sister in law who seems like a nasty piece of work.) Janzen's acceptance of years of serous emotional abuse by her awful husband (whom she pathetically claims to still love)is difficult to read, but this is her story and what she has to say about how we raise girls to accept things without complaint is important. All in all I recommend this one. ( )
  Narshkite | Dec 24, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
“Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” is loose and gossipy, organic and unhurried without losing control. It has “a real nice shape,” to use a compliment one matchmaker applies to Janzen herself... I loved this book, and Rhoda Janzen. She is a terrific, pithy, beautiful writer, a reliable, sympathetic narrator and a fantastically good sport.
 
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Mary Loewen Janzen
First words
The year I turned forty-three was the year I realized I should have never taken my Mennonite genes for granted.
Quotations
"When you're young, faith is often a matter of rules. What you should do and shouldn't do, that kind of thing. But as you get older, you realize that faith is really a matter of relationship - with God, with the people around you, with the members of your community" (p 137)
Wrapped in his own misery and despair, he was incapable of the simple practiced presence that love demands. (p 171)
I'd never minded the little things in Nick's behavior; I'd never even noticed them. It was after Nick had left me that I learned the lesson: it's when you don't love somebody that you do notice the little things. Then you mind them. You mind them terribly. (p 181)
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Book description
Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her injured. Needing a place to rest and pick up the pieces of her life, Rhoda packed her bags, crossed the country, and returned to her quirky Mennonite family's home, where she was welcomed back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda's good-natured mother suggested she get over her heartbreak by dating her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.)

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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805092250, Paperback)

"It is rare that I literally laugh out loud while I'm reading, but Janzen's voice—singular, deadpan, sharp-witted and honest—slayed me." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her injured. Needing a place to rest and pick up the pieces of her life, Rhoda packed her bags, crossed the country, and returned to her quirky Mennonite family's home, where she was welcomed back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda's good-natured mother suggested she get over her heartbreak by dating her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:52 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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