The subtitle for this part two memoir is a summary in a nutshell: ‘A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems’. This is Rhoda Janzen’s sequel to Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, which I thought was funnier and fresher, but then sequels often find it hard to compete with the original. It is still vintage Janzen: funny, honest, grateful, and self deprecating. This is a brave story cloaked in dark humour. Janzen teaches creative writing at Hope College and has a Ph.D. from UCLA. She is a poet and knows how to write.
In the first book she survives the end of her marriage and a serious car accident. In the second book she enters a new love relationship, finds a new church home, and battles a serious cancer, not necessarily in that order. Her life has undergone some significant changes. Although her faith language can be a bit rough around the edges and delightfully irreverent at times, the journey she shares speaks volumes about how much she appreciates her roots and is surprised by faith at every turn. Barbara Brown Taylor said this and I agree with it. “Rhoda Janzen is one of the few people I trust to write about faith without using God to clobber me.”
My best takeaway from Janzen’s books is that even though inevitably things happen in life that we do not choose and are not able to change, what we do have control over is choosing our attitude about it. This is a great responsibility, but also a great freedom.
I read this book when I still had a small dog who slept in my lap when I read. He didn’t really like this book, because I kept startling him every time I burst out laughing.
Rhoda Janzen’s husband leaves her for a guy called Bob who he met on gay.com. She is in a terrible car accident, and becomes unable to meet her mortgage payments. Her only option as she reels from all of this, is a return to her Mennonite home. Her humour and breezy voice move the story along as she rediscovers the warmth and strength of her roots, and her Mennonite mother is such a hoot!
Janzen was once poet laureate at UCLA, she now teaches writing at Hope College, and is an excellent writer. Apparently she’s one of those teachers who has the reputation for being really tough, but if you survive the class, you learn so much.
Janzen believes that biography should be more than the story of a life. She believes that in a memoir, there must be movement from captivity to restoration: a resolving of a problem, as in music when a minor note resolves to a satisfying major in the final note. For the author the redemption was to rediscover the value of her upbringing when she returned to the family home.
Click the link below if you want to hear Rhoda Janzen speak about her Mennonite home and her upbringing. There are no spoilers in it. At four minutes it’s a bit long for an interview, but if you’re like me, hearing and seeing the author enhances the reading of the book.