Since my current post on my new blog is a book review, I’m sharing it here as well:
Books about divorce have created a whole new genre of literature, it seems. I plan to review some of them here from time to time and wanted to start with one of my favorites: Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce. Morrison had recently given birth and bought a house and was in the running for her dream job as Editor in Chief of Redbook Magazine when her husband announced one night that he was done. She got the job and lost the husband.
Her memoir tells the story of the two years after the night that she heard the fatal news and how she coped and didn’t cope. She writes with poignant vulnerability, honest self-reflection and genuine humor of the ways in which her life turned upside-down and inside-out. With a literary symbolism she could not have manufactured, her basement begins to flood and her roof begins to leak the same month that she starts her new high-powered executive position while still reeling from her husband’s unexpected announcement.
Unafraid to describe the nights she lay on her kitchen floor, noticing the crumbs under the stove while flattened there from the weight of her grief, she takes us through the familiar yet exquisitely personal storms, internal and external, of living through a nightmare. In the end, Stacy emerges from the fog with her natural optimism intact. This is one of those reads that feels like a long phone conversation with a friend. If your friend happens to be a well-connected New York magazine editor, that is. But that’s the beauty of this story. Great shoes and a great career can’t save you from bad plumbing or the misery of loss. I laughed and cried and winced my way through it and recommend you do the same.
My new blog. Which you will notice is on my new website, which I also hope you notice is selling my new book.
My father, a well-respected preacher with a mellifluous voice, and my mother, a genuinely Christian woman with an unflappably upbeat perspective on the world, raised my brothers and me in a small Midwestern town amidst conservative values. I became a minister, endured a difficult 14-year marriage, moved to be near my parents at age 43 for the first time in my adult life, and got divorced. So perhaps it is no surprise that I could not put down Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Janzen was raised by a Mennonite preacher and his unfailingly cheerful wife, considered seminary before becoming a Ph.D. poet, and when her husband of 15 years left her, moved back in with her conservative parents at age 43 to the Mennonite life she had long since left behind. This book is a side-splittingly funny memoir of that experience.
Janzen, who spends most of her time writing poetry, shows that she is a natural storyteller. There isn’t one of her relatives, neighbors or friends I didn’t wish I could meet after her hilarious accounts of their encounters. The Mennonite Lunchbox Hall of Shame is practically worth the price of the book (especially since she includes the recipes at the end). And being a bit of a religion nerd, I fully enjoyed her short and sassy history of Mennonites in the appendix.
While the book made me laugh uproariously at times, it’s also a poignant and honest telling of the stinging pain of midlife trials and the blessings of family who keep on loving us in their own quirky ways. Janzen clearly loves the parents who took her back in when her life crashed to an undignified halt. And boy, could I relate to that.
I feel almost too connected to the subject matter to say anything objective about this wondrous little book. I’d love to hear from others whose path may not follow hers quite so closely. Did you still relate to her? Did she make you laugh out loud?