Jessica Penner, author of “Shaken in the Water” (Workplay Publishing, 2013) wrote a thorough and honest review “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie.” I’m sharing a slice of it with you today. For the full review, click the link at the bottom and check out Jessica’s website.
I chose to read Diana R. Zimmerman’s memoir, Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie, in a very un-Mennonite fashion. That is, I printed out the entire book, even though she had sent me an electronic version, when a scrupulous Mennonite (for the unknowing non-Mennonite readers out there) would’ve just read it on their laptop. In my defense, I printed it on both sides and shrank the text. Mess of manuscript and pen in hand, I settled down to read the memoir with my Pandora station set to play mostly grunge hits from the 1990s. The music choice was entirely coincidental—but it fit with the memoir and the feeling of the snapshots Zimmerman shares about the summer of 1991.
That summer, Zimmerman, her friend, Beth, and two other young women, Nina and Sheila, decide to stay in their small college town to take summer classes and work. The initial scene of the discovery that none of them know how to cook or keep house is vivid and captivating. Their first meal is peanut butter and jelly after a hotpot is ruined through an attempt to cook rice in it. “Maybe I could have saved the hotpot if I had seen Beth’s preparations,” Zimmerman writes. “I didn’t know how to cook, but I did score in the 99th percentile on an aptitude test for mechanical reasoning. ‘Mechanical reasoning’ 12 doesn’t mean you can fix things—it means you can tell ahead of time something like that is never going to work.” One feature of the apartment they share is the fact that the landlady allows them to paint whatever they want on the walls. What they paint becomes a backdrop to those months of independence. “It didn’t have to be pretty,” Zimmerman writes, after describing some of the attempts at artistry. She adds, “Before long, it wasn’t.” These scenes set the tone for the rest of the memoir. She cannot necessarily correct the problems that arise, but she realizes that they are there, looming, like the damaged hotpot and painted walls.
Zimmerman adroitly shares snapshot after snapshot, giving us glimpses into her life that summer…