The Gift of Laughter

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The Gift of Laughter is a family history memoir that tells the story of Jacob and Lena (Zimmerman) Willems and their family, a story that begins in WWII California then traces the family’s history back to Holland, Catherine the Great’s Russia, Minnesota, and Saskatchewan, Canada, before the final move to California’s raisin country in 1919. Most of the Mennonites who settled in this fertile farmland prospered. Jacob and Lena did not. They and their young family struggled to survive; yet the stories their children told about their childhood and youth were filled with laughter—their home a place where people sang and joked and enjoyed the drama of their unfolding lives. This book preserves those family stories, while unearthing the family’s history and exploring the mystery at the heart of Lena and Jacob’s marriage.