Jessica Penner’s Review of Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

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.

Diana R. Zimmerman’s Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

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…

Click here to read the full review of Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie 

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Released Today: “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie”

Today is the day that my second book, “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie” becomes available. If you pre-ordered last week, it will be on its way to you soon. If you didn’t order it then, order it now.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK

I’m happy, proud, and excited.  This has been, to this point in my life, my “life’s work.”  Not calling it a masterpiece (!), but it has certainly been the thing my life has required of me.  I tried repeatedly to abandon it, but it would not let me.

I’m scared and I wonder if I’ve lost my mind. The book is, as Daniel Shank Cruz says in the promotional blurb he kindly wrote, “fiercely personal.” Fiercely. As in, I can’t believe I just said all that to the world. But I did. I can’t believe my family in Pennsylvania is going to read this. But they are. I can’t believe I’m this old and still think like that. But I do.

I’m sad. Because my husband Pio is supposed to be here for with me for this but he isn’t. If it hadn’t been for him and the self-confidence he gave me and the truth-telling he pushed me into, I never ever would have been able to do this. Write it, maybe. On a page, I can say anything. Publish it, never. Not in a million years. I’m sure he’s watching from somewhere if dead people can do that and I’m sure he’s proud if they have terrestrial emotions, but it’s not the same. It feels imaginary, whether it is or not.

But, CHEERS! To us. To Andre Swartley and Workplay Publishing. To everybody in the book: Beth, Nina, Sheila, Tom, Dan, Curtis, Colin (sorry), Mean Tabitha (you seem a lot nicer now), The Boy in Los Rios, and even Matthew who is in heaven with Pio. We did it–all of us. We made it through.  If you haven’t read the letter I wrote to you, please read it now.

For us, this book will be a little photo album of a time we may love to remember or wish to forget.  I hope, for those on the journey, it will be a guidebook–a map through the jungle.  This is the book I needed the summer I was the girl in it, but I had nothing, only a journal to write it all down.  I hope, if there’a girl who needs it now, she finds it.

Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

 

Pre-Order “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie”

You can pre-order “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie” right now on Amazon.com at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/Marry-Mennonite-Boy-Make-Pie/dp/0990554589/

The book will go live on Monday morning, September 17, and you may have it in your hands by this time next week.

“I wanted to write stories that are so true, they frighten me.”

–me, from “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie”

This is it, folks.  It’s here.  It’s true.  I’m frightened.

 

Two more weeks! Excerpt from Chapter 2: The Carrot Problem

Excerpt from the title segment of MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE Chapter 2: The Carrot Problem

…The carrot problem reared its ugly head soon after Nina came home from Pine View. It wasn’t even a carrot problem; it was a general vegetable problem, but carrots became the case in point. Sheila missed it because she was at Grandma Friesen’s house, safe from the monotony of our rice and lentils. The rest of us were sitting on the living room floor scarfing exactly that.

“You guys,” Nina said to Beth and me, “I think we should start buying our food at the Co-op. They have such fresh vegetables, and they’re all grown organically. I think it’s important to support farmers who don’t put chemicals into the earth.”

“That’s great,” I said, pretending to consider this while I chewed. “The only trouble is that everything at the Co-op is so expensive.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Beth agreed.

“But, think about it. Where would you rather have your money go? Who would you rather support?”

Money? What money? My five dollars a week, on which I was perpetually hungry? Beth could see the storm clouds gathering right there in the living room, as the hot and the cold air that is Nina and I began to collide. “I think shopping at the Co-op is great,” she said, clawing for middle ground, “but it’s true that it’s more expensive than Kroger’s.”

“But, don’t you think it’s worth it?” Nina asked. “Pesticides are killing our rivers. They kill fish and animals and hurt our Mother Earth. Also, it’s healthier for us to eat organic food. Think about the chemicals.”

Is this supposed to be some kind of newsflash? Because I thought it was common knowledge…

…”I think the Co-op is cool,” I said. “And I hope someday I have enough money to buy everything there. But right now I don’t. We need to get as much food as we can for as little money as possible. How many organic carrots can you buy at the Co-op for a dollar? Three? That’s fine. People should do that. But if it’s my last dollar we’re talking about, I’m taking it to Kroger’s where you can get a whole bag. You know? If we buy our food at the Co-op, we’ll go hungry.”

I was serious. And I was pissed. Just because she still gets an allowance from her parents, she’s going to preach to me about vegetables? Hold me back…

Excerpt from Chapter 3: MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE, 3 Weeks to Release Date!

This is a partial excerpt, set in Costa Rica, from the title segment of Chapter 3, called “Chino’s Moon”…

If I were the child of my host parents, the man called Chino would be my uncle. All day he sits outside his little store where the men and children congregate, selling soda pop, single cigarettes and mint candies. He laboriously reads the sports and human interest stories in the newspaper he pays for every day from his till. At night he sleeps on a fold-up cot in the back of the store to discourage thieves and ambitious coons from helping themselves to his wares.

He has an impish grin on his face when he says to me, “Quiero hacerle una pregunta.”

“Okay,” I agree.

“¿Usted cree que un hombre fue a la luna?”

“¿Cómo?”

He repeats the question, asking if I believe that a real man went to the moon, and then adds, “Un americano.”

“Sí,” I say, perplexed, thinking, doesn’t everybody know that?

Then Chino does something I have not imagined. He throws back his head and laughs a deep belly laugh, not of mockery, but of genuine mirth, as if I have performed an amusing and clever trick. It’s one of those contagious laughs that makes you giggle even when you don’t know what’s funny.

“¿Usted no lo cree?” I ask. I have never heard of anyone who flatly disbelieves what we all know to be true.

“No, no, no,” Chino shakes his head. “Yo, no.”

“¿No?” I ask, a burst of laughter escaping me, too.

“¿Cómo puede ir un hombre a la luna?” he asks, looking at me as if I have told him I am certain elephants can fly.

But didn’t you see the pictures? I start to say. Then I stop. But they showed it on TV, flashes through my mind. Sweet Lord. Listen to me. These are the stupidest reasons on earth to believe anything…

A live link on Amazon.com on September 17 will bring this book to you.  For residents of Tamarindo, Costa Rica, a book signing (date to be announced when books arrive) will be held shortly after at Bookstore of the Waves.

 

Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

GREAT NEWS!

My new book, MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE will be coming to you via Workplay Publishing this fall.

What is it about?

Once upon a time, in a mid-west college town, there were 4 girl-women that rented a ramshackle apartment for the summer. They did lots of silly, crazy, and a few potentially-dangerous things as they tried to figure out, like people feeling around a dark room with their hands, how to begin to be adults. They broke rules because they could. They asked questions they were supposed to already know the answers to. The girl-women were Mennonites, or the daughters of Mennonites, or a new generation of Mennonites in full sail toward the edge of what they were told was a flat planet.

This book is written snapshots from that summer, placed together to tell a story. The story is a memoir and it is fiction. Everything is true, some things are false, nothing is impossible.

If you ever had to map your own terrain, if you ever were 20 years old or went to college, if you ever realized that the rules you memorized from the rulebook don’t apply to the game you’re playing, if you ever wondered if you were going mad, you may find snapshots of yourself here.  Many of us make the journey. I took pictures.

Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie continues the story begun in my first book, When the Roll is Called a Pyonder, but it is not a direct sequel.  It is set 11 years later when that spunky little 9-year-old is just as spunky but not as little.  Some of When the Roll is Called a Pyonder‘s audience will also enjoy MARRY  A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE.  Some of that audience will be offended.  I will do my best to promote this second book in places where it will find appreciation and not create offense.  I hope you will join me!  Get ready to learn more about it in the coming months as I do my best to give it the promotion it deserves.

April Travels Part 1: Things That Never Change

I got on the plane a week ago in hot, windy Liberia, and flew to Harrisburg, PA. USA. I’ve been here for a week in the farmhouse I grew up in, with my parents and one of my sisters and her family. Tomorrow, my sister and I will fly to Ohio to visit our other sister.

April is supposed to be spring in the northern hemisphere, but in Pennsylvania, this year, it is still winter.

I’ve seen a lot of people I love.  A definite highlight was a dinner with friends I haven’t seen in 20 and even 30 years, and another was getting to know a cousin I haven’t really known in my adult life.  It’s all good, but it’s not always easy. Falling asleep and waking up are easy. What comes in between is not. Except overeating. Overeating in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is easy. It’s normal. Then you put on your skinny jeans and feel penitent.

 

The Farmhouse

The farmhouse I grew up in never changes. Part of it is something like 200 years old, which, in the Americas, is old. My parents put a laminate wood floor in the kitchen/living area since Pio and I were here 2 years ago. They got new carpet in the living room. Other than that, everything is the same. When I come home, I sleep in the same bedroom I slept in as a child. The trees are bigger, but since spring is late this year and there are no leaves on the branches, I can look out my windows and over the fields and the pond. Its comforting. Kind of. It’s old. Older than my memory. Older than my loss. I looked out these same windows at the same moon when I was 16 and when I was 2.  I remember that.

Does it make me feel better? “Better” might not be the right word. It makes me feel something different—and that can hardly be bad.

Even though it’s April, it’s cold enough outside to keep burning wood in the wood burning stove in the family room. That’s a big plus. There’s a constant cozy spot in the house where my mom and I go to get warm. The floor creaks in all the same spots it did before, and the doors make the same sounds. This is the safest place in the world.

The Farm, March 2011

Cold Wind

It was windy in Guanacaste when I left, and it’s been windy here, but it’s a different wind. A very very cold wind that pushes me back inside every time I stick my head out the door.  It comes to my skin with a sensation of pain.  The high temperature for today, in degrees Fahrenheit, is predicted to be 43.  Low last night of 25.  The sun is nothing more than a big light bulb.

 

Unspoken

I was not—NOT—prepared for almost no one to talk about Pio. That is so weird to me that I can barely get over/around/beyond it. But I have to behave politely and keep it together, so I do.

But I don’t understand. Not mad. Completely confounded.  I mean, we all know there’s a very noisy, vivacious and unusual person who is NOT HERE, right? So? I did not expect no one to talk about him. I did not expect to be (almost) the only one to say his name. That is SO WEIRD to me. It leaves me speechless.

I know I am not the only person who notices that Pio isn’t here. Is not speaking of him supposed to be a courtesy to me? Because it only feels upsetting and confusing. Not speaking of him makes me feel worse, not better. As if I am the only one who feels this absence. Of course I am the only one who feels it in this way. But I would actually feel much better if somebody else would bust out with, “Well things sure are different when Pio isn’t here!” I would feel much less like I am about to go insane.

I know. People don’t know what to say.  Are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or something silly. Or that I might burst into tears? I might, but probably not. If I do, it won’t be because I became suddenly upset.  I burst into tears all the time when no one is looking, so for me it’s not a new or disturbing experience. And the only wrong thing to say is nothing, like he was never even here. THAT is VERY wrong.

I’m guilty of it too. Now I know. Not speaking of the beloved dead because of not knowing what to say or not wanting to upset a friend or a loved one. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I have done it too.

Those of us who are left are not more upset when someone offers to remember with us. I never for one minute am not thinking of Pio, so there’s no chance you’re going to remind me of something I had momentarily forgotten.  To me, honestly, it feels as shockingly inappropriate to address his absence with silence as it would be to ignore him personally if he were sitting at the table.  But then again, the PA Dutch are not known for their skill in navigating emotions.

Just thought I’d tell you about it.  If I don’t tell you, how will you know?  All of us are learning how to do this.

 

Suitcases

Now, time to stuff everything back into the suitcases and roll on down the road.