Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

I Am Hutterite is another book I read for the Amazon Review program. While in college in Saskatchewan Canada during the mid-1970s, I on occasion saw Hutterites and wondered about them. When I had the opportunity to get this book to read, I was excited to find out more about these people. After reading it, I understood one of my college friends much better as she had grown up highly influenced by the Hutterites in her area. I enjoyed getting to know these people through the book, but one thing became very clear to me. As long as humans are in charge of communal living and are making the rules and regulations, there will never be a true communal experience. Mary-Ann Kirkby's family bore the brunt of the head elder's dislike for her father and rather than treat the family by the beliefs he espoused, he treated them like the enemy. No communal living whether religious in nature or not, will ever be able to truly accomplish the reality of communal life. It is too hard for any one person or group of people to set aside themselves to fairly and wisely lead the group. Even if you get one or two that can do this, eventually the reigns will be turned over to someone who can't and seek power for power's sake and the community life will start to disintegrate.

While going to college in Canada in the 1970s I saw the occasional Hutterite but didn't have any idea about their beliefs or why they set themselves apart. When the opportunity to read this book for review, I jumped on it as a chance to find out about these people. Written as an autobiography by the author who lived in a Hutterite village in Canada until the age of 10 when her parents left the community. In many ways their lifestyle was perfect. They had everything they needed because they shared all in common. The workload was shared and there were certain procedures for occasions in a persons life. How a new mother was taken care of after a baby was born made me practically drool with longing even though I am many years removed from the birth of my own children. As a person aged their responsibilities to the community lessened although there was always some work that they could do.

Although the author and her family left the Hutterite community when she was aged 10, they still kept a close association with it due to relatives and friends there. Having the community to go visit seemed to help, as the children especially, got over the hump of going to regular public schools and being the victims of ridicule. This is a warm and sensitive book about growing up different yet growing up in a special way where everyone felt like a part of something bigger than themselves. There are still a large number of Hutterite communities in the Midwest and Canada. They split off into smaller communities when their numbers reach over 100 or so.

I'm very glad I got to read this book and would highly recommend it to others, especially those interested in a religious community life. It answered many of the questions I had had about Hutterites back many years ago and gave me a deeper insight into this large group of people that purposefully live their lives in a purposeful way.

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