Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book #6 of 2010 (or 5.5 depending on on how you count)

"Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" by Rhoda Janzen

At first, the worst week of Janzen's life—she gets into a debilitating car wreck right after her husband leaves her for a guy he met on the Internet and saddles her with a mortgage she can't afford—seems to come out of nowhere, but the disaster's long buildup becomes clearer as she opens herself up. Her 15-year relationship with Nick had always been punctuated by manic outbursts and verbally abusive behavior, so recognizing her co-dependent role in their marriage becomes an important part of Janzen's recovery (even as she tweaks the 12 steps just a bit). The healing is further assisted by her decision to move back in with her Mennonite parents, prompting her to look at her childhood religion with fresh, twinkling eyes.

Rhoda Janzen is a well-liked English professor at a local Michigan college. Knowing this fact, I had higher hopes for her memoir. It is the story of the end of her 15-year marriage and her return to the Mennonite community she grew up in. The events detailed are not necessary humorous -- her verbally abusive (and bipolar, to boot) husband leaves her for a man he meets on, she is seriously injured in a car accident and she can't pay the mortgage on her house. But she is quick with the self-deprecating humor to stop any feelings of pity. I especially enjoyed her stories of her mother and all her quirky habits (chugging tuna fish water, for instance). However, I found the flow of the book to be extremely disjointed at times. Events and stories were recalled at times that seemed to have little to do with the surrounding story.

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