I promise: you will be transported,says Bill Moyers of this memoir. Part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie, this book evokes a lost time, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when a sheltered little girl named after Shirley Temple entered a family and church caught up in the midst of the cultural changes of the 1950's and `60's. With gentle humor and clear-eyed affection the author, who grew up to become a college president, tells the story of her first encounters with the
glittering worldand her desire for
fancyforbidden things she could see but not touch.
The reader enters a plain Mennonite Church building, walks through the meadow, makes sweet and sour feasts in the kitchen and watches the little girl grow up. Along the way, five other children enter the family, one baby sister dies, the family moves to the
home place. The major decisions, whether to join the church, and whether to leave home and become the first person in her family to attend college, will have the reader rooting for the girl to break a new path. In the tradition of Jill Ker Conway's The Road to Coorain, this book details the formation of a future leader who does not yet know she's being prepared to stand up to power and to find her own voice.
Ms. Showalter takes readers on a winding road of her growing up years in the 1950's and 1960's. Sometimes that meant coasting other times climbing. Throughout the journey she had this constant yearning for more than her life on the farm offered; like a glittering world was beckoning her, calling her to a different life. Ms. Showalter tells her story with passion, honesty and a deep love and respect for her Mennonite heritage. Like every good storyteller, she draws you into the story, transporting you to a slower paced era and into the life of one young, sometimes shy, sometimes daring, Mennonite girl.
What I was most touched by in this book, was towards to end, a section titled, Why I Am (Still) a Mennonite. While Shirley loved her family and life on the farm, she felt this constant urge to explore life beyond that. Today however, though most likely shaped by her decisions along the way, she's still a Mennonite. She sums it up best in the final pages of her beautiful her memoir:
"The prayer of Jesus for his disciples in John 17 has kept me in the church, believing in the unifying power of love, even when particular people or decisions disappoint me... I'm Mennonite because I choose to be... To be rooted in the faith of my fathers and mothers and to link arms with the rest of God's children moves me as much as the old time religion that's still good enough for me."
My sincere thanks to the author and Herald Press for the complimentary copy of this book.