Home is where the heart mends

  • Updated: December 26, 2009 - 5:31 PM

MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS by Rhoda Janzen

Rhoda Janzen was recovering from a botched major surgery when her abusive husband left her for "Bob the Guy from Gay.com." That is when the wisecracking author did what any distraught 40-something would do -- fled her adult life and moved back home with her parents, devout Mennonites.

Despite her heartbreak, Janzen chronicles her return to the proverbial fold with the sort of madcap humor and raw self-examination sure to win her fans among Mary Karr lovers. Janzen's parents quickly steal the show, as her unfailingly cheerful mother dreams of marrying her off to her cousin Waldemar, an accounting professor who is good on a tractor. Her father is a lovable Luddite, suspicious of 21st-century gizmos.

"For [him], belief in cell phones was somehow optional. It was a deeply subjective matter, like reincarnation. Inviting cell phones into your heart like Jesus was clearly something he was unprepared to do." In between waxing poetic on the dietetic qualities of borscht ("We even do a whimsical little thing with headcheese") and fending off nosy questions about her personal life, Janzen finally explores the core reasons she remained in such a turbulent, furniture-breaking marriage so long.

While the journey is equal parts hilarity and tragedy, ultimately Janzen makes peace with her past. After all, she decides: "Is it ever really a waste of time to love someone, truly and deeply, with everything you have?" Not, it seems, if you are a Mennonite.

ANDREA HOAG

  • MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS

    By: Rhoda Janzen.

    Publisher: Henry Holt, 241 pages, $22.

    Review: Janzen's flip and hilarious voice carries this memoir about breaking up, going home and letting go.

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