Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby

I love reading books about different religions, cultures, and peoples. So when I saw a review for a book about the Hutterites in Canada I had to reserve it at my local library.

Mary Ann (or Anne-Marie as she called throughout her childhood) takes us through her life in a Hutterite community. She loves the feeling of family and togetherness as everything done in the community is done together. Women work for a week doing all of the cooking for the community and then they are off the next week. If you want a pie you just go to the community kitchen and pick one up for lunschen- the meal that family eats together at 3 in the afternoon.

She talks about happy carefree times with her young cousins between the hard work days and the church services every evening. She is happy.

But her father struggles with some of the rigid rules he faces from the preacher in charge. Not being allowed to own a vehicle, he must borrow one from his brother-in-law Jakob, the leader and preacher of Fairholme, their community near Portage La Prairie. Ann-Marie's sister is asthmatic and has to visit the doctor often. Jakob thinks it's just an excuse for using the Econoline van and starts to deny their requests. When a younger brother comes into Ann-Marie's family and has complications that require surgery their request for the van is again denied. This time with fatal results. The Dornn family decides to leave the community.

Ann-Marie and her family struggle in forging a new life on their own. All the work that was done with the help of a community must all now be done on their own. Her father has never had a real job, in the community he was in charge of the chicken barn. He has never had a bank account or a loan since in the community all the money earned from the sales of vegetables or farm animals was put into the community coffers. Their clothing is outdated and plain, not the mini skirts and nylons the others are wearing.

This part of the book was great. I got a real feel for life in a Hutterite community and the challenges faced when leaving one. Mary Ann Kirkby describes it vividly. However, the subtitle of the book "The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage" hints at something more. I kept waiting for that journey, but I feel as if she missed the bus. She does go back- more for a visit than anything else. I didn't see the journey and I didn't see any heritage reclaiming and for this I feel the subtitle was misleading and should have been left off the book.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. And while it wasn't an exciting or great read I did like it and learned a lot about a group of people I knew nothing about. My rating? 3 out of 5 stars