Book Talk: MENNONITE MEETS MR. RIGHT, by Rhoda Janzen


Grand Central Publishing (October 2013), trade paper (ISBN 1455502871 / 9781455502875)
Nonfiction (memoir/spirituality), 272 pages

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (November 1, 2013). Shelf Awareness provided a publisher-furnished galley to facilitate the review, and compensated me for the review they received and posted.

Rhoda Janzen’s popular 2009 memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, explored her return to her cultural and religious roots following a very bad week; she was in a serious car accident just days after her fifteen-year-long marriage ended. In this followup–previously published as Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?–Janzen has moved on from those crises and is in the early stages of a new relationship when she fails her mammogram and learns she has an especially large, invasive tumor. It’s a crisis that would test an established couple; Rhoda and Mitch met only a few months earlier, so she has no expectations that he’ll stick with her through it.

This memoir’s new title, Mennonite Meets Mr. Right, gives away the ending. Mitch defies Rhoda’s expectations by not only seeing her through the cancer treatments, but by accompanying her on a new faith journey…and into a new married life. These two seem oddly matched on the face of it: she’s a poet and a professor, while he’s a blue-collar recovering addict–but they’re heading in the same direction on their spiritual journey, so why not go together? And as Mitch brings Rhoda into his church home, she learns how to weave her Mennonite traditions into a different form of faith.

Readers who enjoyed Mennonite in a Little Black Dress will find that Janzen’s humor and sharp observations haven’t been depleted by chemotherapy, and may especially appreciate the compare-and-contrast between her formative Mennonite church and her newly chosen Pentecostal one.
Mennonite Meets Mr. Right is an inspiring story that doesn’t feel “inspirational,” equally appealing to readers seeking their own spiritual way and to those seeking honesty and a few good laughs.

Book description, from the publisher’s websiteAt the end of her bestselling memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen had reconnected with her family roots, though her future felt uncertain. When this overeducated professor starts dating the most unlikely of men–a weight-liftin’, church-goin’, truck-drivin’ rocker named Mitch–she begins a surprising journey to faith and love.

Nothing says, “Let’s get to know each other!” like lady problems on an epic scale, but Mitch vows to stay by her side. Convinced that his bedrock character has something to do with his Pentecostal church, Rhoda suits up for a brave new world of sparkler pom-poms and hand-clappin’ hallelujahs. 

Written with her trademark “uproarious, bawdy sense of humor” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune), Mennonite Meets Mr. Right is witty and moving, perfect for anyone who has taken an unexpected detour only to find that new roads lead to rich destinations.

Opening Lines (from Chapter Two): “Leroy was involved in a dynamic youth program at Mitch’s church. When I was Leroy’s age, I hated church activities with a cavalier contempt illustrated by Regency romances. These tales abound with Bow Street Runners, impoverished but genteel governesses, and exciting duels at dawn. Luckily the books in this genre are all identical, and therefore they repeat a truly uplifting moment. This is when the black sheep viscount leisurely slaps his glove across the villain’s chin. How eloquent, how civilized! I longed for the rebel chops to slap our youth group’s chin.”

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