Book Review: Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? by Rhoda Janzen

My relationship with God is strong.  My experiences with the church have been anything but consistent.  This is why Rhonda Janzen's new book Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solver Her Lady Problems really spoke to me.  Sassy, blonde, and full of wit, the author's sharp-tongued, unique approach to life is painfully familiar to those of us who have been a bit guarded with our faith and relationships.   The story is actually a series of life stories woven together to create a memoir you won't soon forget.  While I won't reveal too many of the details, it chronicles her new beau, her experience with the Pentecostal church, and her reconciliation with the faith she grew up with.

Watching her come to grips with merging her "professor" identity with the blue-collar Pentacostal identity of her new man is entertaining at times -- painful at others .  The payoff, witnessing the writer as she allows herself to be humbled and broken in order to create a riskier and more beautiful version of herself, is the payoff to this unique and cheeky read.  I sometimes struggled to get through parts, probably because they remind me so much of myself.  I was delighted with her writing style, however, and my husband actually enjoyed the book even more than I did.  "She's amazing... she writes like you" he would comment while reading.

What's also awesome about this book is that it deals with breast cancer in a way that is both real and gritty -- yet hopeful.  As her other relationships and ordeals intertwine with her current cancer struggle, the story has an amazing level of depth, giving credit to her writing style and approach towards life in general.

The story isn't something you'd read aloud to the kiddos.  It has its courser moments:
 It was clear that she meant to pee into the river, but she was flooding her shorts.
"Whitney!" shouted one of her friends, waving.  "Whitney, show us your boobs!"
Unless you've lived in a bubble, however, we all know the characters she writes about, and the parallels are refreshing. There are also those inside "church"jokes that never get old:
I told her that Elder Joe had asked Mitch and me to be greeters at church.  We had turned down his interesting invitation.  I was too sick at the time, but I wanted to see what Temp would say.  She frowned and pursed her lips.  "A greeter!  It's a slippery slope, my friend!"
Mingled inside the clever and cute is the wisdom you can only imagine the author gained from several lifetimes of trials:
She had to allow that Mitch was the real thing, a kind man of faith.  She observed, moreover, that the kindness and the faith did not exist in his character as independent qualities.  Rather, the first was clearly activated by the second.
I haven't read her first book, but now I surely will.  Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? is available at bookstores and  This new kind of memoir (the kind you actually care about) will have your hooked till the very end.

*Review copy received. Opinions are 100% my own.