Book review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

When Rhoda Janzen is left ‘broke and broken’ after her husband leaves her for a man he met on, and in the same week suffers serious injuries in a car accident, she retreats to her Mennonite family for a taste of the familiar. What follows is not a misery memoir, although it could have quite easily trodden that path given the circumstances, but a funny and frank account of what it takes to begin the healing process, and the value of finding your roots again. Her descriptions of married life are often painful, such as when her husband’s lover rings their house at midnight, and she ends up leaving their marital bed to sob in their guest room, but her openness gives us an insight into why we stay in unequal relationships for so long, and how love really can be blind.

Amongst the fog of hurt and disappointment, there is a tenderness that radiates from her family and friends, particularly her mother, Mary. Her grounded nature remains the shining beacon that begins to move Rhoda out of the ‘dark waters’ to somewhere safe, where she is free to be herself again. She uses her cultural heritage to good comic effect without compromising the dignity and faith of her family and the Mennonite community.

There is also a sense that this book played a cathartic role in Rhoda’s physical and mental healing. Readers going through a similarly tough divorce may find that her musings resonate, and if nothing else, no other book will have the capacity to make you laugh about hysterectomies.