My aunt Jeanne, with whom I share very similar taste in stories, sent me this recent memoir of a girl who grew up in a Hutterite colony called I Am Hutterite. I had never before heard of Hutterites, but the group is over 500 years old and live communally in parts of Canada and the Northern Prairies in the US.
We have a lot of conversations around our house and with friends about community. What is community? How much do you have to share before you are communal? How do people survive conflict in community? Or make decisions.
I was immediate fascinated with this true story about the ups and downs of a completely communal society.
A lot of the details answered questions for me that about how something like this could possibly ever work. The Hutterite systems for how things are decided and accomplished are beautifully organized. And though things on the colony are not perfect, life flows pretty seamlessly. Work, play, worship and rest flow in a routine that makes a lot of sense when viewed from the crazy rat maze that most of us occupy.
I was especially enamored with the communal kitchen and eating. Being in the kitchen with lots of other women enjoying the tasks of preparing foods from scratch together appeals to me immensely. Of course, I am just coming off of the holiday cooking, feasting and cleaning together with the women in my family.
What is special about this gal’s story is that her family left the colony when she was ten years old. Not only did she lose what was in many ways a safe, idyllic childhood setting, but she also had to adapt to a world that was completely foreign. The tales of how she and her six siblings took on the various challenges of sticking out like sore thumbs in a mainstream school were among my favorite in the book.
While she did adapt to the outside world and to life away from the routine of the colony, she still carries in her soul the time she spent at Fairholme Hutterite Colony, so much so that she affirms even with the title of the book that she is indeed at heart, a Hutterite.
So beautiful. I think I’m choosing it for my book club selection this spring.