I was all set, upon several recommendations, to start An American Wife. But last week my brain was full to the point of exploding, so of course it made more sense to pick up this "lite" memoir of a woman's journey back to her roots after a painful divorce.
The return to a faith-filled home was exactly not what I should have been reading last week, but I tend to go with my gut. And standing in Costco, my gut lurched for Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.
I read it in two days. I laughed myself to tears, once even reading aloud to The Gorilla, who I assure you had no idea what was funny about the passage. Janzen writes well, and her essays read as if you're chatting.
But if we were chatting, I would ask more probing questions. While her humor is just right, I kept wishing she would get into the deeper parts of this story. I wanted to know more about the end of her marriage or why she left the church in the first place. I wanted to know more about her relationship with her siblings. I wanted her story to go further than she was willing to go. That's the tricky part of a memoir.
There were a few slams I could have done without. My eyes narrow visibly whenever someone takes aim at sororities. An easy target, perhaps, but it always reeks to me of bitterness. I also took a strange personal offense to this sentence: "Thousands of undereducated zealots had adored Mel Gibson's cinematic presentation of the Passion of Christ." I didn't see that movie and don't plan to, but I disagree that the masses that did should fall into an "undereducated" category.
I ate up her relationship with her parents - especially her mom - and the stories from her childhood. Several stories sent me to the 'net because I was completely unfamiliar with the Mennonite culture. She helpfully explains a few things in the back of the book about their branch of the Christian religion.
It's hard to place how she feels about Mennonites now. I understand that, being unable to put words to something that is a part of you whether you like or not. But maybe, as I grapple with my own wandering path, I wish she had tried.