Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby

Once in a while a very interesting book comes across my desk and I Am Hutterite (Thomas Nelson, 2010) by Mary Ann Kirkby is one of them.

The Hutterites were a small Protestant break off group that appeared in 1528 in Moravia. They took the Book of Acts very seriously and decided to have a common life together and have everything in common; food, fellowship, and income. The Hutterites make the Amish look liberal!

The Hutterites left Europe and many of them found a new life in Western Canada and in the North-Central United States, North and South Dakota, Iowa. Mary-Ann Kirkby's book is part family history and part memoir telling the story of her family through the lens of daily life in a Hutterite commune. Life was very structured with everyone eating and praying together, working on the farm, working the land, mending, sewing, and building. Kirkby recalls that each commune had about 125 people, just enough people to work the land and to feed without being too cumbersome.

The cover of the book says that the book received an award in Canada and Publishers Weekly gave the book a strong endorsement. I found the book intriguing in that Kirkby manages to tell us her own story through the lens of the Hutterite community, but I found her own voice missing. There was no empathy or emotion between me and Mary Ann. Not only was the book a bit cumbersome with the many German words peppered throughout, but the book was written almost objectively, without real feeling. I almost felt like Mary Ann was writing from too far away, that there was very little of "her life" on the page but was telling the story from several generations removed. Maybe this was no fault of her own, but in the end I am glad that I read this book, not only does it fill a gap in modern religious history but Kirkby also included a recipe for a Sugar Pie which I want to try one day, it looks delicious!