Marian Longenecker Beaman’s memoir shares heartwarming vignettes of life in Lancaster County, PA. The author paints images with words of the joys and frustrations of growing up as a Mennonite. I visited Lancaster County several years ago. But I was not as aware of the Mennonites and their restrictions as I was of the Amish. So, some of Beaman’s revelations were surprising to me.
The author’s use of detail in descriptions of people and places brought them to life. Thus, the reader feels an actual part of what and where Beaman was describing. The inclusion of family photographs allowed the reader to “see” the life Beaman described.
Beaman’s family’s devotion to their Mennonite faith was unmistakable in all they did. I have known Beaman from her blog, Plain and Fancy, for several years. I was not surprised at the faith commitment. Yet, reading about Beaman’s baptism at age 10 took me quite by surprise. Everything changed for this young girl. The church’s rigid rules about dress, everyday activities, and schooling controlled her life. The little girl who wore frills and ruffles her Mennonite mother sewed had to put those dresses away. How conflicting this must have felt to her.
Beaman also writes of her father’s punishments and abuses. It is not uncommon for an abusive parent to declare his/her faith and to use Scripture as a basis for the punishment. I felt Beaman’s pain and heartbreak as I read her emotional words and desire to know why. Beaman was a strong young woman who stood up to the leaders in the church and to her father. Although she mentioned a fear of her father’s actions, she overcame that fear. What courage this took.
Beaman has taken the opportunity to tell her true story. While telling of punishments and abuse, she reflects on the loving nature of her home life. The author shows respect and admiration for her mother. Yet, she questions the lack of intervention on her mother’s part at times.
She also expresses the love felt for her grandmother and Aunt Ruthie. In fact, one might say Beaman had two homes. There was a home filled with parents and siblings. And the home maintained by her grandmother and Aunt Ruthie. This second home was a place of escape where restrictions were a bit looser. Beaman enjoyed many happy days with their grandmother and Aunt Ruthie.
I enjoyed reading Beaman’s memoir and taking a trip back in time to Lancaster County, PA. The story is rich in family and one woman’s history with traditions and culture. Her shining moment is in her courage to take a step away to build her own life.
Beaman is a master storyteller and wordsmith. Her writing is fluid, detailed, expressive, and strong. I highly recommend this memoir not only to those who enjoy reading a memoir. But also to those who want to write or are writing a memoir. Beaman does it just right.