Book review

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I Am Hutterite
by Mary-Ann Kirkby
Published by Polka Dot Press, $29.95, 207 pages.
(Canscene) –At the beginning of this enlightening and often entertaining, book, successful journalist Mary-Ann Kirkby sets out on a visit to the Hutterite colony of her birth; her editor has requested a story on Hutterite gardens.

Mary-Ann finds that her visit strengthens her sense of heritage in the simple God-fearing people who originated in Austria and migrated because their belief in absolute pacifism met with the disapproval of the more orthodox religions.

I must confess, until receiving I Am Hutterite for review, I hadn’t thought much about this religious sect since last seeing the film 49th Parallel in which a group of stranded Nazi submariners, trying to find their way from Hudson Bay to the then neutral USA encounter a Hutterite farmer and his daughter in one of the film’s episodes.

My lack of knowledge of Hutterites is mainly because Canadian Hutterite colonies are all located in the prairies whereas here in Southern Ontario we’re much more familiar with those who follow a similar religious path… the Mennonites… are still to be found in large numbers in areas that rely on the agrarian way of life.

I am Hutterite is the story of a young girl, raised in a Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba. The fascinating details of the simple life lived until when she was ten years old, her parents decided to leave the security of the colony are succeeded by her initial confusion at the world outside and her attempts to integrate into the society.

In an epilogue that takes the form of a letter to her young son, who accompanied her on the visit to the colony. Kirkby writes: “Levi, you are the great grandson of Joseph and Katrina Maendel from Old Rosedale Colony. If their bones could speak, they would claim you as their own. Nothing will ever change that. So be proud of it my son, for it is only when we embrace our past that we can find true fulfillment in or future… I am filled with a deep appreciation of where I have come from and a better sense of where I’m going. The Hutterite culture has defined me in ways that can never be erased. In my heart, I will always remain a Hutterite.”
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