This memoir transports the reader into the world of a girl growing up in a Mennonite family on a farm in Lancaster County, PA in the 1950s. For many it may appear to be a quaint childhood environment far different than their own. But for me it was a reminder of the many ways that my own childhood experiences were similar to those of the author. There are obviously plenty of differences between us, but hardly a chapter went by in this book that I didn’t think of similar experiences from my own life.
Perhaps my introspective reaction to the book has been influenced by the author Shirley Showalter’s many blog posts encouraging and coaching others to write their own memoirs. I’ve been following Shirley’s on-line comments since 2009 when she had a blog titled “One Hundred and One Memoirs: Because One Hundred Isn’t Enough.” We’ve been Goodreads.com friends from that same era as well. Even though we’ve not met in person I feel our acquaintance has reached an advanced stage of cyberhood friendship. Thus, for the reasons noted above and others, my response to this book is probably more emotional than it would be for most other readers.
Her chapter titled "Standing Up To The Bishop" reminded me of religious experiences from my younger years that I now view with less than positive enthusiasm. Would survivors of those experiences be the same people today if they had been spared the experience? When I noticed that Shirley had included a Glossary at the end of the book I immediately checked to see if she include one of the most important words of my youth, "worldly." Yes, it was there under "The World." If you think that the word "world" is a synonym for "planet earth," you don't understand the theological significance of the word. If you want to know the real meaning of the word you'll have to buy the book and see for yourself.
Under Acknowledgments I noticed that Shirley included thanks to "... critics of my faith... . You have been my teachers and mentors, too."
It was thoughtful of her to say that. She even included some recipes at the end of the book for those who wish to experience the taste of cooking from the Pennsylvania Dutch branch of the Mennonite Church. (Not all Mennonites come from that ancestry.)
I might also mention that Shirley has been the master of building social media buzz in anticipation of this memoir. She's been running a virtual workshop on how to write a memoir. She's been sending frequent writing prompts that encouraged subscribers to write about their memories. Another example was a "New Beginnings Challenge" in which she asked participants of share hopes, dreams, adventures and challenges over the 100 days prior to the date of publication for the book. The winner of the "Challenge" received (if I remember correctly) an overnight stay at the Forgotten Seasons Bed & Breakfast which is the Home Place in Shirley's story.
Thus when she gave away twenty copies of the book through the Goodreads.com giveaway program, over nine hundred people entered their names. Presumably there were more like myself who didn’t enter because we had already purchased the book. It made my initial concern upon hearing that she was giving away twenty books seem foolish because my first thought was that maybe fewer than twenty people would enter.