Mennonite Meets Mr. Right: A Memoir of Faith, Hope, and Love
If you read MENNONITE MEETS MR. RIGHT, Rhoda Janzen's latest memoir, in a public place, like Starbucks or the doctor's office, be prepared for the consequences: laughing out loud. A lot.
In her earlier offering, the bestselling MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS, we learned that Rhoda is an irreverent, intelligent, sarcastic, soul-searching, conflicted, comedic God-person without a congregation to call home. In this sequel, she will find human love with a guy named Mitch, "a Jesus-nail-necklace-wearing manly man, whose hands were so huge they ripped his jeans pockets," an unlikely choice of sweetheart for a cerebral poet/professor. Rhoda fled the restrictive religion of her birth, only to run into the Mack truck of Christian denominations: Mitch's Pentecostal Holiness faith.
"If you read MENNONITE MEETS MR. RIGHT, Rhoda Janzen's latest memoir, in a public place, like Starbucks or the doctor's office, be prepared for the consequences: laughing out loud. A lot."
On an early "date," Mitch, who has a teenage son, Leroy, and a nephew named Stealth ("after the bomber") takes Rhoda to a healing service at his church, where she is bemused by parishioners being cured of such ailments as "throwing up a lot" and "lady problems." Soon after, she learns that she has a highly invasive form of breast cancer (lady problem) and will need chemo (throwing up a lot). The friendly Pentecostals tell her that God "has her back," and she is anointed with oil by the concerned pastor.
Then follows the saga of her slow-growing love affair with Mitch and her fast-growing cancer. Throughout even the worst days, Mitch insists, "I'm the right man for this," devotedly accompanying her to her grueling chemo sessions and helping her choose a wig, or, in clinical language, a "cranial prosthesis." Together they care for Mitch's 90-something blind father Albert, who, though mentally alert, always sees the negative in any situation ("like Eeyore," Rhoda opines); and for Leroy, who wisely observes of his dad and his prospective stepmother, "Sometimes you seem like you're from different planets."
Rhoda and Mitch explore the spiritual (tithing, baptism) and the physical, including sexual abstinence, while she is going through chemo and "my skin turned a curious color…a toxic cloud of chemicals hung in my mouth." Mitch insists on "no chemo emo," and Rhoda works on positive imaging and taking God "at his word." Whether through chemo or Pentecostal anointing, or both, Rhoda recovers, and the couple is able to tie the knot.
The author concludes, "All my life I had been so busy criticizing organized religion that I hadn't actually taken stock of what was happening around me. People on the spiritual path were seeking and finding peace." The story of Mitch and Rhoda's unusual but very workable relationship will appeal to anyone willing to take religion with the occasional whiff of laughing gas.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on October 25, 2013