I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this book, because on one hand, it started out on a great note. It was so hilarious I was laughing out loud! About halfway through, however, the theme of the book takes a turn from funny to offensive (for me.) The author spends most of the latter half of the book talking about how religious people are all brainwashed sheep and how offensive they are to her, all except her family, I suppose. If she had kept going like she started the book, I would have given it 5 stars. But being a brainwashed sheep myself, I wouldn't have bought the book if I had known what was in store.
Rhoda Janzen, raised as a Mennonite, left the culture in her adulthood and lived among the regular folks. She had a pretty normal and happy life until a set of health mishaps--and her husband leaving her for a man he met on Gay.com.
The book is about her reconnecting to her family and recovering pieces of herself that she allowed to be swallowed up by an unhappy marriage. Weirdly, she does not really admit to the true character of her husband until pages and pages into the book. Then you discover that the whole dissolving of her marriage should not have come as any surprise at all.
For me, I never really connected with Rhoda or with her family and friends. There was just something missing. I'm not sure that I can put my finger on what it was, but I think it was just a lack of depth in the telling of who they were. I enjoyed reading about her mother and her sister and brother-in-law, but some of the other people were just not interesting.
I found the middle of the book to be entertaining, but my interest was not sustained through the end. I did learn about Mennonite culture (no, they are not the same as the Amish!). And if I never hear the phrase "Bob from Gay.com", I will be most delighted.
Maybe I'm just sated with the memoir thing? Or, maybe this one really just doesn't quite live up to the hype? I'll split the difference and go with "both".
Janzen is a good writer, and she can be funny, and moving. However, I found the timing "off" in her delivery. We get it that he left you "for a guy from gay-dot-com named 'Bob'." We got it the very first time even! If we hadn't gotten it the next dozen or so times that it came up in the book, the phrase might've been cute; we did though, and it wasn't. Moreover, Bob is a helluva lot more of a mainstream name than Rhoda, IMHO. For those who think this may have come as a real shock, the author mentions, in passing late in the book, that she knew her husband was bisexual when they married. She mentions repeatedly that her father is "very good looking" and later writes off dating Mennonite men because "they aren't good looking"; I'm not sure I really want to explore that further, but there it was.
Unlike Feroozeh Dumas' memoirs of being Iranian-American, I wasn't so sure that Janzen wasn't inviting the readership to laugh at Mennonite culture, rather than "with" it? The humor in the book seemed forced at times to me - like a vaudevillian terrified of losing his audience, which lessened the impact of the serious stuff she brought up about 3/4 of the way through the book. Introduced earlier, it would've made more of (the intended) impact.
I did not care for this book and stopped reading it after a few chapters (something I RARELY do). I have Mennonite relatives and thought it would be neat to read a book to get a better feel for their way of life. Well, after just the first few chapters, the Mennonites in this book are NOTHING like my relatives who are much more conservative. I may have continued to read the book despite that if it had been a good story, but I found the writing annoying - the character would tell one little story and jump to another mini story and back and it drove me nuts. I feel that I wasted the $10 I paid to get this on my Kindle. :(
I had low expectations for this book so I was surprised to find that I chuckled my way through it, enjoying both the laughs and the perception that the author displayed in this memoir. It might not hit the right note with every reader, but it did with this one. Quick, enjoyable read!