Featured Reviews, VOLUME 6

Shirley Showalter – Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World [Feature Review]

[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”0836196260″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41e7wpeXqwL._SL160_.jpg” width=”104″]Page 2: Shirley Showalter – Blush

 
 
As a whole, Blush moves slowly, strolling along chronologically with a few jumps back and forth in time, anchored by key words and phrases like “glittering world” and “blush.” As a literary framework, however, those words are not always strong enough to carry the weight of the narrative as it moves forward. With such images perhaps less is more, and as a reader I longed to be allowed to see the tension between that glittering world and the Mennonites of Lititz, PA on my own, for the author to let it rest on her descriptions and stories, on the hopes and dreams of her younger self, instead of playing with the title (however good a title it may be).

 

The book has many lighthearted moments, unexpected surprises about Mennonite life, particularly when it comes to young people driving fast cars, falling in love, and starting families. The scenes of young Mennonites dating are at once heartwarming and humorous. Dating, it seems, is awkward for all teens, plain or not. Showalter’s background as an educator is clear, also, in the numerous footnotes and explanations of Mennonite history and culture, but though these are interesting facts and relevant for certain conversations, at times they distract from the narrative. As a work meant to educate people about what Lancaster, PA Mennonite life is really like, and about its rich history, the book succeeds wholeheartedly, yet as a memoir the pacing is off at times, as the book tries to balance between educating and telling a story.

 

Still, though the book moves slowly, I can’t help but wonder if this is as it should be. These are stories of ordinary things. Showalter describes a slow life. As a Mennonite myself, who converted as an adult in an urban setting, and has little exposure to plain folks beyond visiting one of my graduate school friends, who lives in Lancaster County, Showalter’s book is a gift. A recent trip to Lancaster Central Market for Shoofly Pie left me feeling like a tourist among my own people. While there are significant differences between the Mennonite community of Showalter’s childhood and my own, there is a religious kinship between us that makes me grateful for these stories.

 

Of course, if my parents and childhood friends read Blush their confusion about my conversion will most likely return with renewed vigor. That is a fine problem to have, however, because Shirley Showalter’s story, lovingly told, is one I can share with them from my own place situated in the glittering world. She can tell them this kind of story better than I ever have, because the story is her own.

 
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Meghan Florian is a writer, scholar, and nonprofit communications guru.  She blogs at http://www.femmonite.com/
 
 




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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com


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