I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

When I was first contacted to review I Am Hutterite I was immediately interested for two reasons: first, my mother grew up on the prairies of Canada just as the author, Mary-Ann Kirkby, did; secondly, my family is also a family of faith.

But, the concept of being a Hutterite was new to me. Based on the verse found in Acts 2:44-45 the Hutterites have a “commitment to the common ownership of goods (which) sets them apart from the Amish and the Mennonites and distinguishes them as the finest and most successful example of community life in the modern world. Today their population sits at approximately forty-five thousand on four hundred colonies in the northwestern United States and Canadian prairies.” (p. xvii)

The story Mary-Ann Kikby tells of her growing up on the Fairholme Colony as a Hutterite is a fascinating one; the colony seems to run as an efficient, warm and loving place, with a specific part for each member:

Regardless of age or capacity, each member had a station to fill and meaningful work to do. No one received a salary, but everyone’s needs were met. Sharing a common faith, most colony members were satisfied with a sustainable lifestyle that nurtured them physically and spiritually from cradle to the grave. Everyone ate, worked, and socialized together for the good of all. Women did the cooking, baking, and gardening while the men carried out the farming, mechanical, and carpentry chores. (p. 63-63)

We learn of their style of dress, the huge dining rooms where families eat together, the massive kitchens where women age 17 to 45 do the cooking under the leadership of one head cook for everyone. We learn of her father who came into the colony an outsider; although he won her mother’s hand, he never developed complete unity with her brothers, one of whom was the colony leader.

After a series of great disagreements, one involving the death of his daughter because they were not granted permission to take her to the doctor, and one involving the purchase of necessary farm equipment needed for his job, her father decided to leave the colony. Taking his wife and seven children, Mary-Ann’s father found a home on ‘the outside’ in which the family would live independently.

It was an enormous change for the children, suddenly thrust into the public school system, where their pronunciation of ‘th’ (nonexistent) and style of dress (antiquated) set them apart from the others. But, it was also an enormous challenge for their parents, who now must do all the tasks which had been shared by the colony members themselves.

Despite longing for ringlets and hot pants, lunches wrapped in Saran Wrap and brown paper bags, and acceptance from her peers at school, Mary-Ann realizes the honor in the life her parents gave her.

I am struck by how often we look for the perfect lifestyle. Some leave home in pursuit of freedom, and like the prodigal son return grateful for what they’d once scorned. Some set up an enclave of sorts, hoping that the group can meet one another’s needs. Others live a quiet and orderly life such as a Catholic or a Buddhist monk. No one can find the answer to complete happiness on this earth because this world is not our home. But a life which honors God, and family, such as the Hutterite families have, cannot help but create a great foundation for themselves and their children.

(Thank you to a. larry ross communications for the copy of this book. Also, find the Facebook page for I Am Hutterite here.)

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11 thoughts on “I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby”

  1. I think this book sounds fascinating. I have not heard of this group or faith. However, as you said, there is no complete happiness here because this world is not our home (that's an old hymn that we sang at my father's funeral). Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Bellezza. I appreciate it and will search it out. I want to read it.

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  2. I haven't heard of the Hutterites either, but this is the 2nd time I am coming across this book. The theme seems fascinating, and I would like to check it out!

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  3. I had never heard of the Hutterites until I was sent this book. We'd visited the Menonnite quilt fairs in Indiana when I was in college, and driven by the Amish homes in Ohio, but the Hutterite colonies were totally new to me.I loved reading about them; in many positive ways, Mary-Ann's life paralleled mine. I think it's a good thing to not fit in; my dear neighbor says, "When were the masses ever right? They crucified Christ." Food for thought…Now, when I look back at most of the kids I was in High School with, I'm so thankful I was not like them. They were content to fit in the box and color in the lines. They were content to sell their souls for popularity and image.

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  4. What is a perfect life? Does fame make life perfect? Why is fame always connected to a perfect life? Doesn't fame make you more vulnerable to dangers, to ridicule? I think life is defined depending on the person, the definition of perfection varying depending on the person.To me, a perfect life is for my Mom to be home with all our dreams completed. Silence, peace, comfort. Isn't that perfection?

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  5. Cutlex, I love your definition with your Mom home, and silence, peace and comfort. That is as close to perfection as it's going to get, I think. I hope she knows how you feel, as so many mothers and teenage daughters are at odds with one another. You must be a huge blessing to her, too.

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  6. I have visited the Darvell Bruderhof (Hutterian) community in East Sussex, England. The community makes and sells quality wooden toys educational equipment and furniture directly and by post.The Hutterian way of life and witness to God is a fascinating one and your book review would be an interesting read, so thank you for your post.

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  7. i've never heard of this book or this sect of religion. it seems like an interesting prospect but i'm not sure i could live in such a hive-like system. i'm all for a more simple lifestyle, but don't think i could swing this one! thanks for an interesting review and peek into a different and efficient way of life.

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  8. I read this book too. The geography is familiar to me. Many of the systems are ones I've seen espoused in different religious communities. Only the reader knows if the uniformity is advantagious to his/her life view or is it back to only indiviualism in the U.S. of A? M2

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