Overdue Book Review #2: Mennonite Daughter By Marian Longenecker Beaman

Overdue Book Review #2: Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl by Marian Longenecker Beaman

Readers of my blog will recognize the name Marian Beaman from the comments. She comments on nearly every post I write, and she was one of my first followers. Full disclosure—we have met in person back in the before time when people actually did meet in person.

Visiting a friend in Chincoteague

She was working on her memoir at that time. I think I remember a discussion about the red shoes then. You can see the shoes in the delightful cover photo. Indeed, the book is beautiful, and it is filled with lovely family photos, as well as illustrations created by Marian’s husband, Cliff Beaman.

Mennonite Daughter is a memoir that covers the early years of Marian’s life up to her marriage to Cliff. It covers the conflict she had with living within the restrictions of her Mennonite life, while also loving many aspects of it.

“Even after the strict dress code fell away, the strong pillars of faith and family have defined my core values. . .In my heart, I will always be a Mennonite.”

The book explores her troubled relationship with her father–who never told her he loved her–as well as the connections she had to her “two mothers,” both named Ruth. One was her biological mother, a farm wife and mother; the other was her Aunt Ruth, who remained single. Aunt Ruth was a Marian’s mentor and her literal teacher at the two-room schoolhouse that Marian attended.

Mennonite Daughter is set mainly in Lancaster County, PA, from about 1940 to the 1960s. Readers learn about farming, as well as what it meant to be a young Mennonite woman during that time. This included the proper plain clothing, as well as living according to the tenets of faith. To wear jewelry, make-up, and certainly red shoes, was part of the “fancy” world. We meet Marian’s beloved grandmother, her sisters and brother, and her relatives. We see Marian chafing under restrictions, and we feel for her as she waits in hope for her parents to acknowledge her hard work in high school after she graduated with honors. The book also includes maps, notes, and recipes.

This memoir is heartfelt. It is a book based on love—of family, of community, of learning, and of faith.

This book is cat-approved, too!

Marian’s Blog, Plain and Fancy Girl: https://marianbeaman.com/blog/
Amazon Link to Mennonite Daughter: https://www.amazon.com/Mennonite-Daughter-Story-Plain-Girl/dp/1733585206/

Overdue Book Review #1: Elizabeth Gauffreau, Grief Songs

Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance

Elizabeth Gauffeau’s Grief Songs is a short book that leaves a long, lingering presence. The book is a collection of personal photographs paired with mostly tanka poems. (A tanka is a 5-line poem typically written as syllabic lines of 5-7-5-7-7). This means that each poem is a sharp distillation of a moment, an event, or even the history of a relationship between parents, between her and her parents, or between her and her brother.

Because the poems are brief, the book can be read very quickly. However, a reader who lingers over words and photos will be rewarded. The poems and the feelings behind them grow with repeated readings. I must say that sometimes I was left wondering what happened. This is not a criticism of the poems, but rather, my own curiosity about people. “Youth Group Picnic,” for example, gives us a glimpse of the day—two children waiting in the car, giggling and honking the horn. Liz fills in the rest of the story here on her blog.

“For a Crooked Smile,” however, needs no additional context.

“He was my little brother.”

That poem brought me to tears (as did several others):

Grief Song III

I held her hand
as she lay dying
death rattle
in my throat.

This is a book of poetry that is highly accessible, but with poems that resonate. It is a memoir in bite-size pieces. Each poem is a snapshot, a memory experienced in the way we are all hit by a sudden remembrance of a time, a place, or a person.

In “Sixty Years of Katherine,” Liz writes:


“minutes tucked into envelopes
decades left in dresser drawers”

These lines feel both personal and universal. Those of us who have helped a parent move or who have cleared a home after they’ve passed, understand the complex emotions behind these beautiful, succinct phrases.

Elizabeth Gauffreau is wonderfully supportive friend of other writers. I follow her blog and follow her on social media, and you may want to, as well. But– this review is unsolicited. I did not tell her I was writing or posting it. She may respond to comments here though.

Congratulations, Liz, on this lovely, poignant book!

From her website:
Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Woven Tale Press, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in North of Oxford, The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge. Her debut novel Telling Sonny was published by Adelaide Books, New York in 2018.

Find Grief Songs here on Amazon.

You can find Liz here:
WEBSITE: https://lizgauffreau.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau
LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/egauffreau

This book is cat approved!

An Adventure

Monday Morning Musings:

“‘I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’”

–Lewis Carroll, “The Lobster Quadrille,” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

I’ve been on an adventure since last Wednesday. Just so you’re clear, it’s a Merril Adventure, so it doesn’t involve car chases, hot air balloons, or ski slopes; no danger involving avalanches or volcanic eruptions. I’ve not been caught in a coup, nor been accused of spying. I’ve not encountered a single lion, tiger, or bear. However, I have seen ponies. (I’ll just pause here for you to say, “awwww.”)

 

It’s an adventure involving women, friendship, and writing. In fact, I’m on a writers’ retreat. It’s not an “official” retreat, that is, it’s not sponsored by a group or organization. That also means there is no pressure. I haven’t spent the last few days hiding away or feeling anxious. Instead, I’ve formed new friendships while learning about writing memoir, fine-tuning passages, and formatting blog posts. We’ve done critiques, but we’ve also eaten great food, drunk wine, shared memories and expertise, laughed, and explored the lovely Chincoteague/Assateague area—apparently the area is a magnetic center that brings people, as well as birds, from all over.

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Janet Givens  instigated this writers’ gathering, offering her lovely vacation home to almost total strangers. Susan Weidener  kindly offered to drive Marian Beaman and me from Pennsylvania. I admit, I was apprehensive about spending a week with women I’ve never met, but it has been a wonderful several days—and I now have new friends!

It’s possible I may have baked and brought my Mandelbrot (aka “Mommy Cookies”) along—because how could I go a week without chocolate goodies? Susan brought chocolate, too—so one crisis was averted. Sigh of relief. Can you imagine me going a day, much less a week without chocolate?

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Just a few left.

 

Our group expanded during the week at Janet’s. Kathy Pooler 

joined our circle from afar. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

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We were joined—in person–by Mary Gottschalk and Carol Bodensteiner  on Saturday night. Apparently on our blogs, both Mary and I are taller. Who knew blogs had such power? On Saturday night, the six of us gathered together at Janet’s, enjoyed stinky cheese (brought from Vermont), wine, and dinner—along with talk of writing and life. I’ve been among truly brilliant and interesting women who have fascinating tales to share and knowledge to impart.

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Although I’ve missed my husband and cats, it’s been a fabulous several days.

Please do click on the links to meet these women. Perhaps you may also want to buy their books. (You know you want to.)

In addition to walking and talking, listening, and eating, I did do a bit of writing. Here is an echo poem I wrote during this past week–while the weather was beautiful and warm.

 

Chincoteague Island, March 2016

Four women gathered together.

Weather?

Well, it couldn’t be better.

Sweater

off and writing going

flowing

growing with critique.

Incomplete

forms arrested,

tested

by practice and time.

Sublime

words, write, repeat,

delete–

but now it’s time to eat.

Sweet!

Laughter from we four

offshore

gazing and walking

talking of Peace Corps,

more–

Four women together

weathered

bettered.

 

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Essay XII,” Art

Have you ever been on a writers’ retreat?  Please share your experiences.