About the Book
Book: Anything But Simple
Author: Lucinda J. Miller (Last name now Kinsinger)
Release date: July 25, 2017
Plain? Yes. Simple? Well…
If you live in a conservative Mennonite community, edges are sewn shut and questions have answers. So if you’ve got a saucy tongue and a roving curiosity about the world, you’ve got a story to tell.
As a schoolteacher in a small Mennonite school in rural Wisconsin, Lucinda J. Miller wears long dresses and a prayer covering. But she uses a cell phone and posts status updates on Facebook. So why would a young woman with access to all these technologies remain in a sheltered community like the Plain Mennonites? How can someone with an eye for beauty and a sometimes sardonic wit stay within a tradition that values discipline and submission and uniformity?
Anything But Simple is the stirring memoir of a young woman’s rich church tradition, lively family life, and longing for a meaningful future within her Mennonite faith.
Click here to get your copy! ”
As I began to read Anything But Simple I saw so many similarities between the author Lucinda J. Miller and me that I found myself glued to the pages. Our life similarities include her ideas about writing, her experiences with her family, her view of her father, and her many questions and doubts about her faith, though she never left her faith and neither have I. I found those similarities despite the fact I did not grow up as a Mennonite and Lucinda did.
When I was reading this book, I saw another review for it where the reader said they were bothered the book didn’t offer any explanations of what the difference between the Amish and Mennonites was. I was baffled by this review because the book’s subtitle is “My life as a Mennonite.” I bring this up not to criticize the reviewer, who may have sure misunderstood the goal of the book, but to bridge into the issues Miller herself dealt with while writing the book.
When she was writing this book, she had a friend suggest she write about how Mennonites are “different from everyone else.” Miller doesn’t feel different from everyone else, other than how her faith shapes how she looks at life. In many ways, her family is the same as every other family, so her goal in this book is not to show how Mennonites are different from others but how they are the same.
This book does a very good job of showing how similar humans are no matter what faith they are a part of. The human condition isn’t something limited by the faith we were brought up in.
Miller tells us her personal story in an entertaining way that delicately balances triumph and heartache. There are times I can’t help but feel heartbreak for the internal struggles she faced during her teen and early adult years, probably because they so closely mirrored mine. These struggles — the feeling she didn’t fit in and how she often felt shy and withdrawn — though tough, was what helped shape her foundation for a fulfilling adulthood.
Seeing her spread her wings and step into a future as a writer, one she wasn’t sure she could have with the background she was brought up in, was very satisfying, again because I could relate so viscerally to what writing represents to her.
“Writers did not have to be pretty,” she writes. “They were very often odd-looking, according to their pictures. And the odder the writer, the better the writing. Reclusiveness, for a writer, was expected. Unhappiness was just a bonus that gave you something to write about and opened up the wells of passion within your being. If you were miserable, ugly, hated, alone, still you were okay. Because you still had the Dream. No one could take it from you.”
Some memoirs turn into a negative look back at their childhood, but Miller’s book doesn’t do that, or at least not often. For the most part, she looks back at her life as a Mennonite as a positive experience, not as something to be spurned or mocked. She writes about her journey through life, and how being a Mennonite affected that journey, but also about Mennonites in general and how they look at life and relate to others.
Miller’s prose is poetic, making what could have been a mundane retelling of a life feel more like a majestic journey into the mind of an intellectualist who has finally allowed herself to be an intellectual and not feel guilty about it.
About the Author
Lucinda J Miller Kinsinger has always viewed herself as a shy little Mennonite girl, but refuses to let that stop her from pursuing what she loves—whether that’s writing with honesty and vulnerability or traveling to a remote village in China. In 2019, she married Ivan, the love of her life, and moved from the flat, tree-lined fields of her childhood home in Wisconsin to the rolling hills of Garrett County, Maryland. The couple has a baby daughter, Annalise. Since the publication of Anything but Simple, Lucinda has published a second memoir, Turtle Heart: Unlikely Friends with a Life-Changing Bond. She is a columnist for Anabaptist World and blogs at lucindajkinsinger.com.
More from Lucinda
Me, and The People Who Shaped Me
My dad used to say that every person in your life is placed there by God for a reason. Even the ones you don’t like are there to teach you something.
If you don’t, God may send someone else to teach you the same lesson you couldn’t learn the first time around.
Anything But Simple is my story, the story of a shy little Mennonite girl growing up to be a writer and asking questions along the way. It is also the story of the many people who enriched my life.
My dad, with his black hair and handsome face and stories from his past.
My mom, with her smooth sweaters and her sure and solid love.
My bishop with his mouth that turned down like a turtle’s.
My creative writing professor who loved words in a way I had never seen in anyone but myself.
From these people and alongside these people I arose, breathing, questioning, earnest.
Our journey, like the journey of all the squiggly and intricate humans that wander the face of the earth, is anything but simple.
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Happily Managing a Household of Boys, April 9
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The Avid Reader, April 11
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To celebrate her tour, Lucinda is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.