Friday, May 14, 2010

I Am Hutterite

By Mary-Ann Kirby, 246 pages, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Mary-Ann Kirby does an exceptional job detailing the civilizational clash between her communal early upbringing on a Western Canadian Hutterite colony. Her father, feuding with the leaders, took his large family to go it alone. Kirby's years of communal closeness were over, and she became a misfit in the "English world," though she enjoyed the solid support of her siblings.

The Hutterites, an Anabaptist sect with roots in Austria in the Reformation, had been persecuted in Germany, then in Russia. They came to North America in the nineteenth-century. Living as a tight-knit community, they practice adult baptism and once-yearly communion. Those practices got them into trouble with the Christian mainstream in Europe as much as their strict male-female segregation gets them deeply rejected by mainstream society today.

Kirby weaves fact with fictional story-telling, liberally creating her own dialogues. She's a good story-teller and brings her childhood, and the various characters of the colony, back to life. Rather than sweeping the troublesome events and divisions under the rug, she shows how the various Hutterite communities were anything but perfect. Refreshingly, though, she writes with respect rather than bitterness, thankful for the solid spiritual and moral center that the Hutterites and her deeply religious and devoted parents gave her.

I Am Hutterite critiques modern English-speaking society more than it does Hutterites, contrasting the love and warmth of Hutterite society with the cold indifference of mainstream Canadian society.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. Thank you! I'm about a quarter into this book and it's a bit boring so far. She is an excellent author though...I'm was born and raised, and still live, in a Hutterite colony so I'll keep reading it...check out my blog if you can find the time!