Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – A Fun Summer Read

July 24th, 2010

I recently finished the book Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. When I first saw this book, I immediately assumed that it would be awful. I imagined a schmaltzy story where a former career woman comes back to her Mennonite roots and rediscovers love in a pasture. But that was not the story at all. Instead it is a non-fiction account of one woman who returns home to her Mennonite community after decades of living with an atheist husband who leaves her for a man named Bob from GayDotCom which is directly followed by being involved in a crippling car accident. She goes home to heal her body and her mind and in doing so manages to WRITE A HILARIOUS ACCOUNT of everything that she has been though. She stares down the religious life of her parents and the floating debris of her own life and comes up with a story that is warm, hysterical and uplifting.

And although she does not embrace the beliefs of her devout Mennonite parents (her father is a minister) she also does not completely reject them. They seem to agree on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy although her brothers are condescending and judgemental towards her career girl mindset, her parents remain warm and supportive.

There are some echoes of Crazy for God in how her parents take a hands off approach towards their daughter’s much more free spirited outlook on life.  It’s almost as if they long ago acknolwedged the limitiations of their own faith and view their daughter’s escape from devout religion with a sigh of relief.  At the same time, the author does hedge a bit in her description of her parent’s faith – especially when it comes to her father.  And in the end, even though her religious beliefs seem to directly contribute to much of the pain she suffered as she forgave a craphole of a spouse over and over again (because isn’t that what Jesus would want?) she fails to see the connection between her faith and her relationship struggles.

The book offers not only one woman’s tragedy served up on a warm platter of humorous hindsight, but it also gives the reader a fabulous glimpse into life as a Mennonite in America. The religious tidbits are also fascinating and fun to read.

It’s an easy breezy read.  Goes with beer, beachwear, or a hammock in the breeze.  A fun summer story with a tasty side of growth and insight. The perfect compliment to a lazy summer day.


  • Lobsta:


  • I NEED this! Seriously – I’m gonna run right out to the local bookstore and see if they have it in stock :-)

  • Bubbaj:

    “Goes with beer, beachwear, or a hammock in the breeze.”

    Do I have to wear my thong when I read this? :)

    • Rechelle:

      Only if you can make that thong look good. Otherwise – please no.

  • Sarah in NM:

    Former Mennonite here. This book has caused a bit of stir among the more uptight communities, but everyone I know has been able to laugh and enjoy the story. My college friends and I just got together over the weekend and were talking about this book (we all went to a Menno college together) and none of us have read it yet. Glad to see it’s gone mainstream.

  • JJ:

    I had been waiting since your recommendation of the The Help to get a copy from the library ( I was #19)and I just started it Friday – almost done – and I am enjoying it very much. I was wondering what should be next on the list – glad to see another recommendation! I will need another book this week.

  • GA in GA:

    Thong required??? Oh no! ;-)

    Sounds like a really good book. Plan to head to the library later today to check it out.. Just finished “In the Woods” by Tana French which is very well written and a wonderful summer time read.

  • Fran P.:

    I put this on my reading list as soon as I heard about it. Your recommendation will move it up a few notches! Have you read Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay? It was an excellent story about an aspect of the Holocaust that I had never heard about, when the French rounded up the Jews in Paris at the Vel d’Hiver.

  • Another one added to my shelf (make that two: thanks Fran for another recommendation!).

    But…is there such a thing as a lazy summer day? If so, someone please send it my way. I haven’t seen such a thing since, oh, 1984?

  • I had read this book before and it’s hysterical. The things that her mom says at totally random moments, total crack up. I mean, who’s mom hasn’t done something like that? It was also interesting to read about the Mennonite lifestyle and food. Man, it all sounds delicious. If you get a chance there’s a restaurant in Yoder, Ks., I think, that Mennonite women cook for. Scrumdelilicious!

  • Tiffani:

    I enjoyed this book. Her mothers random comments also cracked me up. I was so jealous though of her ability to walk into a kitchen and whip up any kind of meal. I never have had those kind of cooking abilities. Always thought it was a natural talent but maybe it can be taught and passed through generations.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    I am SO loving this book!