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on 10 January 2011
Not my usual thing but I'm a typical female reader who reads anything my Mum says is amazing- and she's always right!

Ten times better than Eat, Pray, Love here is the woman you would go to in times of need! Janzen is funny, thoughtful, optimistic, her story moves in ways you wouldn't expect with the frankness and laughter of a good friend. She's brave too, and her tale of looking into the past when confronting an unknown future after her marriage falls apart and she suffers great illness is genuinely inspiring. It makes for a nice easy read rather than one filled with loss and pain. Highly recommended- a lazy Sunday or long train journey kind of book.
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on 13 March 2017
A very different story - took a while to get into the rather stange language
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on 24 March 2017
A strange book!
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on 2 March 2017
The book was ok but it was advertised as being a "laugh out loud". I giggled once !
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on 12 June 2017
Not impressed, did not persevere with this book.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As an academic and a feminist, Rhoda Janzen's life is built around critical thinking and challenging received ideas. None of which explains how she ended up in an abusive marriage with a man who dumped her for Bob from gay.com.

When her misery is compounded by a car accident, Rhoda decides to take a sabbatical in the form of an extended visit to her parents and the strictly religious Mennonite community in which they live.

The result is a thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny reflection on the author's Mennonite upbringing and its lasting influence. This is no navel gazing exercise - Janzen is as interested in the lives of her mother's generation as her own. And, although she rejected God and the Mennonite worldview at an early age, she takes time to reflect on the experiences of those contemporaries who have remained in the Mennonite fold.

"My Little Black Mennonite Dress" isn't the tale of a miserable childhood,a polemic against religion or, despite the publicity, about someone returning to their roots. It is, however, a well-written, insightful memoir in which the author looks back on her life through eyes which have matured in middle-age to detect shades of grey where they once saw only black and white.

It's fair to say that The Mennonite and academic backgrounds to this book are distinctly American and some of the cultural references may be lost on many British readers. My other criticism is that the book seems to end in an abrupt and slightly unsatisfying way.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 March 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Forty-something American/Canadian Rhoda Janzen has had a terrible time of it. Her wonderful, gorgeous husband has left her for for a guy called Bob who he met on Gay.com and her troubles multiply as, in the same week, she is hospitalized following a serious road accident. Incapacitated, she decides to return to the bosom of her Mennonite family to lick her wounds.

So far so good, I am fascinated by the lifestyle of faith groups such as the Amish and Mennonites and I was eagerly anticipating how Rhoda, a self-proclaimed "bad" Mennonite and 21st Century girl would fit back into this conservative Christian community. However....what I got instead was more like a marathon stint by a stand-up comedian - the "pee-bag" joke was funny the first time I read it but then it cropped up again, and again, and again.. Yes, it's good to be self-deprecating in a world which sometimes encourages us to wallow in self-pity but after a while it just becomes irksome and there's surely only so many custard pies you can throw in the face of quirky family and friends before the humour fizzles out.

I would have enjoyed this more if it hadn't been a book - odd to say in the midst of a book review, I know. Janzen tells us that friends encouraged her to write the book after receiving funny e-mails from her about her return to the Mennonite community. Indeed it is like a series of rambling e-mails except we don't have the benefit of dates to aid our navigation through the jumble of anecdotes which would have been much better suited to blog posts or a weekly newspaper column. Janzen jumps about through time and space at a pace which would give Captain Kirk a run for his money. I wanted to know more about how she felt, not hear another tale about her mother's flatulence! Oh and there's a potted history of Mennonites and a few recipes from her Mom tacked on at the end - something for all the family!
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VINE VOICEon 7 February 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you enjoyed the Lake Wobegon books of Garrison Keillor, you will definitely appreciate this book. The writing is pithy, honest, very funny and slightly off-the-wall in many places.

The book is autobiographical and follows the emotional and physical recuperation of Rhoda Janzen after her husband leaves her for a man he met on Gay.com and she is badly injured in a car accident. Returning home to her family (I hadn't heard of Mennonites before, but think liberal Amish and you're getting close)where she reconnects with the old-fashioned values of her community's faith. These guys are sweet but very odd and have eating habits that makes the Germans look sophisticated.

It is a charming account and avoids gloom and sentimentality. There is a fair amount of introspection, but done with humour and laudable objectivity. I can heartily recommend it.
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on 7 February 2011
Rhoda Janzen took a sabbatical from her career and went home to her Mennonite family to recuperate, after her husband left her for a man called Bob and she then had a serious car accident. Over a period of time her emails about life back under the parental wing amused her friends so much that they suggested she save them and turn them into a book - and I'm personally glad that she took their advice.

Ms Janzen admits that while she is an accomplished, award-winning poet, she has no grounding in writing non-fiction, and I think that this shows: her narrative sometimes jumps quite surprisingly from one point in time to another, and the ending is very abrupt. In places (at least in the Kindle edition) the editing was also a tad sloppy. But overall this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, which is well observed, wittily amusing and in places very touching.

At the beginning of the narrative the author's husband comes across as a demon figure, but as she goes through the story she reveals more about him and our changing picture of him seems to reflect her own emotional journey from raw distress through to a more balanced understanding of their relationship. Running parallel to this aspect of the narrative is a second strand, which describes her feelings on returning to the Mennonite fold which she had rejected many years earlier, and her increasing understanding and appreciation of her Mennonite heritage. I have to say that if her family are accepting of the level of detail she has revealed about their lives, and the humour she draws from this, then they truly are a very forgiving sect. But although she pokes fun at some aspects of their society, I was left with the overwhelming impression that these are gentle, kind and generous people and that Rhoda Janzen loves and respects them.

I recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fascinating memoir that works well on many levels. The Mennonite religion is one which many UK readers may be largely unfamiliar with, originating as it did in Germany and the Ukraine. It gained its strongest foothold in Canada and the USA, which is where the author is from.
After reading this, I feel comprehensively informed. Having attended an Evangelical Christian church for many years as a child and also having Eastern European parents, many of Rhoda's childhood memories - and the present day recipes - had a personal resonance for me.

The book is a powerful tribute to the importance of loving family and friends in supporting one through troubled times.Being abandoned by your husband for a man would be bad enough, but to have that topped off with disabling and disfiguring injuries from a car crash in the same week...

It's dedicated to Rhoda's mother, Mary Loewen Janzen who emerges as the sort of person everyone would want as a friend or neighbour - warm, strong, practical, quirky and unrepentantly flatulent, a fantastic cook who is happy to share her gifts (There's a small but tempting appendix of Mary's recipes)

Rhoda is deeply reflective about many aspects of Mennonite life but never loses herself in academic psychobabble. The book is clearly and beautifully written - after finishing the book I was keen to track down and read some of Rhoda's poetry, which has also been published. Very, very highly recommended. If and when this becomes a film, it will be a must - see for me.
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