May. 20th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
I’ve been putting off reviewing Lucinda Miller’s Anything But Simple because I really liked the book, which often makes it hard to write a review - especially for a book like this where my main reaction was not so much literary as personal, in the sense that as I read it I thought “WE MIGHT BE BRAIN TWINS. WE SHOULD BE FRIENDS.”

This is not the reaction I expected to have to a memoir written by a young Mennonite woman. It’s actually kind of heart-warming to feel that similarity despite the outward differences in our lives.

This struck me particularly during the part of the book about Miller’s childhood, when she describes feeling shy and lonely and different for no particular reason - it’s not that her parents were abusive or the other kids bullied her or there was anything really wrong, she just felt cut off from other people.

Actually this crops up all the time in memoirs; I’m starting to wonder if maybe just everyone feels lonely and different when they’re eight. Maybe that’s actually the common experience of childhood: we are all alike in feeling freakish. Or perhaps just the common experience for writers/creative people, which is why it’s represented in so many memoirs? Perhaps that sense of being unable to communicate is what compels creative types to create: it’s an attempt to reach across that barrier.

In any case, Miller’s descriptions of this feeling are especially evocative, which more than makes up for the fact that the book doesn’t get as deep into the nitty-gritty of modern Mennonites as I expected - the promise of Mennonites being the reason I picked the book up in the first place. The book’s meditations on faith are oriented, hmm, personally rather than anthropologically, if you will? So in one sense you don’t learn much about the Mennonites (their history, their theology, their rules of dress) - but it shows you how the world looks from a Mennonite view.

There's also, fair warning, brief descriptions of animal cruelty from Miller's father's boyhood: he had a calling to be a preacher and hated it and attempted to be too bad for God to save: quarreling with his parents, beating up his mother, torturing small animals, etc...

But then he got saved, settled down, got married, became a good husband and father, and lo! was elected preacher by the congregation, just as he always knew he would be. If someone tried to sell me this story in a novel I would scoff, which just goes to show, I suppose, that there truly are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.

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