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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 (2009)

by Rhoda Janzen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6571626,455 (3.3)97
  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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Digital audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber


From the book jacket: Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside-down. From the outside, it seemed that she had everything she wanted: a fulfilling job, a beautiful lakeside home, and a brilliant husband of fifteen years. But then her husband announced he was leaving her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com – and that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. Under circumstances like these, what was a gal to do? Naturally, Rhoda crossed the country and returned to the land of Borscht, Zwiebach, and corduroy-covered Bibles.

My reactions
I’m not sure what I was expecting. I hadn’t read the book jacket blurb. I had noticed a few Goodreads friends had read and enjoyed the book, and I’m sure one or more of those reviews is what landed this on my TBR list. In any case, I’m not sure how I feel about the book.

One the one hand, Janzen is able to look at her life and the choices she made honestly and without (much) regret. She chalks things up to experience and moves on with life. She seems to genuinely like and cherish her family, though she has left behind the teachings and restrictions of her childhood faith. I particularly loved the relationship she had with her mother, who is cheerfully optimistic about everything.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure Janzen was truly over her husband’s having left for a guy he met on Gay.com. Why do I think that? Mostly because Janzen mentions this fact every few pages. Reminds me of a woman I know who left her husband some 20 years ago and STILL manages to bring him up every time I run into her with a not-so-casual, “Oh, what do hear from X lately?” She may have divorced him, but she’s never LEFT him.

In summary, I enjoyed much of it and found her sense of humor about her own situation refreshing, but I didn’t love it.

Hillary Huber does a marvelous job voicing the audiobook. She set a good pace and has just the right tone for the self-deprecating humor, and to convey the tender love Janzen finds in her family home and community. ( )
  BookConcierge | Oct 19, 2018 |
Janzen is a published poet, but she is a very funny writer as well. This memoir of her marriage break-up (her husband of 15 years left her for a man he met on Gay.com) is a warm tale of finding comfort in your loving family. The fact that this family is Mennonite is secondary to the fact that they are nurturing and accepting. The author introduces us to her extended family while sharing hilarious details of growing up Mennonite in a secular community. A fun quick read. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I wasn't sure what to think of this book as I got started. I found the author to be a good writer who took great pride in the use of "big words", many that I had to look up. I think her memoir helped her come to grips with her life choices. I think she came to appreciate her Mennonite heritage as she returned to it as an adult. I found her story entertaining and in some ways, her early life was similar to my own. My background is German Lutheran, but my frugal upbringing was the same. My grandmother made soap, braided rugs and made quilts. Cooking was how love was shown. Over all, I enjoyed the memoir, but I didn't find it as funny as others did. I thought it was somewhat sad. ( )
  melanieklo | Jul 25, 2018 |
It could have ended a few chapters earlier (gets a little tedious at the end) but generally a good, healthy perspective on any upbringing that was stifled by religious legalism. An interesting contrast to Miriam Toews books which are also stemming from Mennonite rigidity. Different sects, perhaps. Comical and honest without being too heavy. A good read and plenty of connections with a Dutch Calvinist upbringing!

After a second read:
The first couple of chapters a re chick full of humour and witticism. They are the best. The book gets more "normal" after that, like a collection of short stories that puts the best ones first. There is a weird gimmick of polling the reader in the beginning pages that starts off like it will be a thing, but only happens a couple of times and then is picked up once near the very end (as if writer or editor wanted it throughout and the other didn't, and this was the compromise). All three polls could have been cut because they offer nothing to the story. Also the repetition of why her husband left her gets old. He left; in the end it doesn't matter why or for whom.
The question is, should I read the follow-up book? ( )
  LDVoorberg | Dec 3, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this book. What a great story. ( )
  Oleksiew | Jul 26, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 166 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:05 -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.

» see all 7 descriptions

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

» Publisher information page

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