Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" by Rhoda Janzen

After Rhoda Janzen's bi-polar husband, Nick, leaves her for a man that he meets on, her life starts to fray a little at the edges. She has a huge mortgage on a house that she can no longer afford, she's a little sore at having been left by her husband for a man, and to top it all off she's in an accident with a drunk driver which leaves her bruised and battered. Seeking comfort that only a mother can provide, Rhoda heads back to the Mennonite home that she grew up in. What follows is the often hilrious, yet often insightful story of the time that Rhoda spends at home with her parents as she begins to heal both emotionally and physically.

This was an absoutely hilarious and very honest memoir. Last night I was waiting for the pizza that I ordered to be ready, was reading this book and I kept laughing- OUT LOUD. I'm sure that the pizza guys thought that I was a little touched in the head, but this book is laugh-out-loud funny. Rhoda's parents come across as people that you would want to meet in person: her mom is comfortable with discussing body parts and bodily fluids, even while cooking, and her dad insists that everyone comes into his office when he receives a funny e-card. This book was more than just a funny recollection of a series of events in the author's life, though. It went far deeper than that. While she's home with the people that love her the most Rhoda is able to come to terms with the issues that she hasn't been dealing with. She examines why she has left her faith behind while she pursues a life of academia; she examines why she refused to leave her husband who could be the sweetest guy in the world at some times, and emotionally abusive at others. She reflects on how lucky she is to have her friends, her sister, and her sympathetic students (she teaches English at a University) and she finds that by confronting her past she is able to move into the future. This book is also enlightening regarding the Mennonite way of life- Rhoda even helpfully includes a section at the end about Mennonite history for anyone who is interested (which I found fascinating). The moral of the story? Home is where the healing often begins, and humour can assist with the process.

I would love to read a follow-up to this novel. I'm dying to know if Rhoda gets to keep her house or if she decides to sell it, and I also want to know if she finds love again. I'm sure that anyone who reads Mennonite in a Little Black Dress will want to know what happens to this intelligent, witty woman.

Thank-you to Henry Holt and Co. for sending me this review copy. You can read an excerpt here or check out the reading group guide here (this would make a great book club book!).


  1. Ok, ok! I'm adding it to my list :D

    Loved your review!

  2. I was absolutely shocked by the title and cover. I happen to have some Mennonite friends, and they just would not wear a skirt that short!


  3. What a title? LOL

    BTW: Enjoy your 2010 challenges; we'll have to compare notes...LOL

  4. I totally want to read this one. I've had it on the list since the first time I heard about it and your review has just reinforced that. :-)