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Mennonite in a little black dress: A memoir of going home by Rhoda Janzen

(Atlantic, $36.99)This was the first book I read in 2011 and I can only hope that every other one I read this year fills me with as much goodwill and happiness. It's a pearler. Rhoda Janzen has just hit

(Atlantic, $36.99)

This was the first book I read in 2011 and I can only hope that every other one I read this year fills me with as much goodwill and happiness. It’s a pearler.

Rhoda Janzen has just hit 40 when her clever but difficult husband leaves her for a guy he met on www.gay.com. The same week she is badly injured in a horrific car accident. Stuck in the out-of-town lake house she can’t move around in and can no longer afford, she has no option but to return home to the Christian sect she spent years longing to escape: the oennonites.

The oennonites are often mixed up with the Amish, by the way, which is not surprising as they were all the same thing until a few hundred years ago.

oennonites don’t drink, smoke, watch TV, swear, have pre-marital sex, or dance, but they welcome back their prodigal daughter with open arms.

In as much as this is a sneak peak at a very private way of living, it’s also a rollicking family memoir reminiscent in a puritanical way of Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris.

These oennonites are hilarious. Rhoda’s mother in particular deserves her own show. A relentless optimist who often bursts into religious ditties, the chapter where she tries to use “boner” in a game of Scrabble had me in fits of laughter.

So too did the conversation the mother and daughter have about who would make the next best husband for Rhoda – her first cousin who drives a tractor or the man she’s dating who’s a relaxed pothead.

Rhoda might have run screaming from the oennonites with her purple hair and miniskirt as a teenager, but as a 40-something trying to navigate life’s often difficult passage, she returns with a new understanding and I, for one, am grateful this charming and talented academic has taken us with her.

Simply delightful.

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