Friday Fun Song: "Honky Cat" - Elton John and a Friday Random 10
A link-snack of some favorites: March 1, 2010

mennonite in a little black dress - Rhoda Janzen

MennoniteinaLittleBlackDress mennonite in a little black dress is one of the best and most interesting books I've read in a long time.  The description of the book says:

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin — he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.

I'm amazed that her family and community are okay with what she's written because she's very honest about her descriptions and her relationships now and while she was growing up.  This description gets across the humorous part of the book, but doesn't necessarily give the feeling of the book as a whole.  This is more difficult to do because the book ranges all over the place, from heartbreak at the breakup of her marriage and her accident, humor in the stories she tells about growing up in the Mennonite Church, conflict as her adult lifestyle encounters her family's faith community, interesting thoughts about faith, and a certain sort of peace as she brings it all together at the end.

She tells so many stories in here.  One of my favorites is a story that her father, a Mennonite minister, tells:

    He described two World War II buddies who had become great friends.  When one of them was killed in combat, the other risked life and limb to bring his friend's body to a Catholic priest in a French village.  But before the friend could be buried in the little churchyard, the priest had to ask him an important question.  Was the deceased a Catholic? The soldier shook his head - "No, that is, I'm not sure.  I don't think he was a religious man."  The soldier had to leave but vowed one day he'd return to pay respects to his friend's grave. 

    Years later, the ex-soldier made his way back to the little village and found the old church.  He wasn't a man of faith himself, but he had since understood that his friend would not have qualified for burial inside the churchyard.  Burial inside the churchyard was for Catholics only.  The churchyard fence had historically symbolized the boundaries of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The ex-soldier therefore searched the perimeter of the churchyard, seeking his friend's grave marker outside the fence.  But he couldn't find it.  Finally  he tracked down the same priest into whose care he had entrusted his friends body so many years ago.  The priest remembered him and led him to a gravesite that was surprisingly inside the fence.

    "But my friend wasn't Catholic!  I though he had to be buried outside the fence!" exclaimed the ex-soldier.

    "Yes," said the priest.  "But I scoured the books of church law.  I couldn't find anything that said we couldn't move the fence." (pp. 169 - 170)


Ginny Hunt

Love the story! I read it out loud to Mike, had to share it! :) Sounds like a really good book.

M Light

I told this story to my family at dinner after I read it. It's a really wonderful book.

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