This memoir has some very funny sections poking fun at the author’s family and Mennonite religion and I enjoyed these reflections, understanding they were mostly good-natured. There is something about a memoir, however, that leaves me feeling a bit manipulated. As a reader, I suppose it’s better to just go with it and enjoy the ride…
But a few things stuck with me after completing Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. I question Janzen’s motivations in writing this memoir. Is it self-indulgent therapy at the expense of her family, particularly her mother who comes off looking like a buffoon? And how do you trash your brothers in one chapter and gush about how wonderful one of them is as a racquetball coach? I’m wondering if she’s just capitalizing on a personal experience that she thinks will make a good story. In fiction, you can do what you want with your characters, but there is a price and a different standard when you’re dealing with real people.
The real sticker with me, however, is Janzen’s repeated mention from the get-go of losing her husband to Bob, the guy from Gay.com. As if she had no idea that was coming! It only comes out late in the memoir that her husband had a gay relationship before he married her. And likewise his bipolar struggles aren’t mentioned or fully discussed until late in the book. She does acknowledge her poor judgment, but there were some major warning flags flying.
So in the end I’m wondering what Janzen has accomplished here, because certainly she can tell an amusing tale, but did she get anywhere from these personal reflections? Does the reader gain any insight? I did not.
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