Friday, May 28, 2010

"I Am Hutterite" - Book Review

“I am Hutterite” : The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's Journey to reclaim Her Heritage

By Mary-Ann Kirkby, published by Thomas Nelson.

I really don’t know what I can say about this book which will do it justice. When I chose it from BookSneeze, I knew absolutely nothing about the Hutterites, and I mean nothing. Nil. Zilch. Nada. I knew a reasonable amount about the Amish, and some little about the Mennonites. Like the Amish, the Hutterites are Anabaptists , but unlike them, Hutterites live communally and worship in Church buildings as opposed to homes.

I read it from cover to cover and could not bear to put it down till I had finished it. I smiled, I laughed, I wept on one or two occasions. Admittedly, the pace of the story was a little slow to begin with, particularly when the author was “fleshing out” the background details of her family history, but I know from my own experience how hard it can be to make such information as interesting and absorbing to others as it is to us......... but it very soon picked up when the author started to write about her own memories and her life on the colony.

The details of everyday life are myriad, and in many ways it appears to have been an almost idyllic childhood, apart from the needless and tragic death of her little brother due to an elder’s apparent intransigence and desire to impose his authority over Mary-Ann’s parents. The minister does not come over particularly well in this memoir, and I did wonder how much of the author’s grief over the loss of her young brother when she herself was very small has coloured her portrayal of the Minister, who was also her uncle. Her parents did forgive her uncle, but he appears to have been unrepentant about the tragedy till his deathbed.

Life was very structured and followed a rigorous routine which would be very alien to most of us “Englisch”. I would love to know whether things are still the same now on a Hutterite colony, and how much influence the modern world has had on their way of life. I really enjoyed the snippets of dialogue written in Hutterisch, the original Carinthian Austrian dialect which the Hutterites have preserved for their everyday speech amongst themselves. Not all the dialogue was fully “translated” into English, and I was glad of my own basic knowledge of German to give me a helping hand in translating it word for word, though the gist of the sentence was always made reasonably clear by the context and the phrases that had been introduced earlier in the text.

The difficulties she and her family faced when they chose to leave the colony when she was ten years old and live in the outside word are described in riveting and heartbreaking detail. I cannot begin to imagine how hard they must have found it, but they endured, eventually prospered and appeared to have found contentment in their lives.

It would have been lovely if the author could have written more about how she found her Hutterite background influencing – or not influencing - her adult life, and the book did seem to end rather abruptly, which was a pity. Maybe she could write another one ?

This book has been an absolute revelation for me, and I have to say, this has been the best book (in any subject category) I have read in 2010.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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DebD said...

sounds like a fascinating story. thanks for the review

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. Very insightful and probing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You might be interested in reading my review on this book posted on my personal blog. I was born and raised in a Hutterite colony and still live in one. Check it out if you can find the time.

Brad Everett said...

The internet makes for a small world. Mrs. Kirkby was just in our village library in Standard, AB, Canada a couple weeks ago to speak on her book. Never expected to read about it on an Orthodox blog from the U.K.