The author taught English in public schools in Maryland and Kansas, and over the years managed to hone her own writing skills. She observed from personal reading a dearth of fiction books with older women characters so she decided to write one. What resulted was Ida and Martha, A Montana Story - a "contemplative novel" - where reflections and revelations on life and aging are explored through conversations and experiences between a variety of characters.
Her first book, Simple Life Fretz: A Kitchen Table Memoir of the first Mennonite Sociologist, was published in 2016 as a tribute to her father.
Sara lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and golden retriever.
About the Book
As young women in the 1970’s, Ida and Martha forged a deep bond of friendship before life led them in different directions. Now at the age of seventy-two, Ida makes a leap of faith by uprooting her life in Boulder, Colorado to move with her dog to the Big Sky area of Montana to help Martha and her daughter run a guest ranch. In her new rural surroundings, Ida finds serenity and happiness until she is thrown off balance by an unexpected romantic attraction. In this lyrical novel, themes of unique friendships, emotional entanglements, spirituality, love and loss are explored with perceptive insight in the old growth of the main characters’ later years. With vividly evoked settings, rich characterization, and a celebratory spirit, Ida and Martha presents appealing characters facing aging with humor, heart, and what our grandmothers would have called “good old-fashioned moral fiber.”
"Fretz-Goering (Simple Life Fretz, 2016) is an eloquent writer who captures Montana's wild beauty with elegance and alacrity. . .[The novel] accepts and bravely faces the uncertainties of life, particularly in old age. . ."
- Kirkus Reviews
“Ever wonder what “women of a certain age” find funny, romantic, sexy, spiritual, crazy, delicious? This story will make you feel like you are hearing secret confessions. Grab your favorite drink and cozy up to the fireplace — but don’t expect to snooze. The action is far from slow, and your reflection after you close the book will linger.”
- Shirley Showalter, Author, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, A Memoir
"Ida and Martha, A Montana Story does a great job capturing life out West among aging reformed hippies making lives for themselves after the losses life will eventually throw all of us. A hint of a mystery and some romance round out the novel making for a fun engaging read."
- Nicole Harkin, Author, Tilting, A Memoir
"While reading this book I often found myself in a dilemma at the end of a chapter. I wanted to sit back and unpack my reactions to Ida's musings or a conversation between characters, but I was eager to read on and discover what would happen next. I liked the message that there are many parallels to who we were in our 20's to who we are becoming in our later years. "Our essence is the same". The analogy of growing older and the old growth trees was also powerful. I will be carrying the book around in my mind for awhile as I ponder the "ah-has". Good books affect you like this. I may have to read it again."
Doris W, FriesenPress customer
"Fluidly written, Ida and Martha catches one from the first page and dives headfirst into the engaging lives of two seventy-somethings, covering significant ground along the way. The dialogue is lively, the descriptions of emotions and strong feelings captured well, while thoughtful and contemplative musings and wonderings about life, sexuality, aging, and the unpredictable ups and downs of life punctuate the fast-paced action. The book focuses on the lives of two mature women who are still learning about themselves and the world around them—it is a welcome addition to fiction about older women living life to the fullest.
Catherine H, FriesenPress customer
"When I read fiction, I have to care about a character in the book to keep going. In this book I cared about all the main characters...so much that I thought about them during the day before reading more at night. I liked their no-nonsense way of facing things, enjoyed the Montana setting, and found myself relating easily to the issues they faced. The storyline had enough unanticipated turns that it kept my interest. The author's writing style was lyrical and calming. I'll look forward to another book from her!"
- KLMoore, Amazon Customer
"Ida and Martha is a wonderful book. I am usually a fast reader, but I made myself slow down so the book would last longer. The author explores important issues: aging in place, friendship and love among older people, as well as pacifism versus gun ownership, discrimination, and much more. It is well paced, with some interesting plot twists and good character development. It would be a very thought provoking pick for book clubs, especially among WOCAs (women of a certain age). I hope Fretz-Goering will write a sequel."
- Quiet Willow Yoga, Amazon Customer
"Old guy here who bought directly from Friesen Press.
This tale is full of memorable characters and piquant reflections on all manner of vital themes. I particularly liked the musings on counterfactual what-ifs that awaken us from sleep at this stage of life. Fretz-Goering has captured the essence of the ambivalence that we all have finding ourselves to have been around this long. The cycle through a calendar year and its seasons lends a satisfying structure to the tale. I did find some of the characters to be rather friskier than I'm acquainted with at this age, but I can't tell if that arises from authorial imagination or if those characters merely deserve hearty congratulations. Either way, I suppose that for many there is a recurrence of dynamics and activities of their youth. Bully for them, I say!
In many ways, this is an American/female counterpoint to The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, or perhaps it's a prequel of sorts. Regardless, you need to read this, and Fretz-Goering needs an agent! Can't wait to read her next book! "
S.K. FriesenPress Customer
"If you're looking for a feel-good story with characters you'd like to personally know, this is the book for you. It's just the right balance of a pleasant clean story, serious issues to contemplate (especially as we age), and a little romance thrown in. I found myself reading just a bit every day, to make the story last longer and keep this Montana community with me for awhile longer. I found the characters relatable and honest, with true-to-life issues that were not always handled in fake non-messy ways, as do some other novels. Life IS messy and this story acknowledges that fact by the ways in which the characters interact. I can't wait for the next Montana story to enjoy the continuation of these good people!"
Happy Grandma, Amazon Customer
"I came to really like Ida and Martha and enjoyed living, while I was reading about them, in that wonderful Montana setting. I liked the way the surroundings affected and transformed folks living there.
There’s a kind of a deliberate pacing to this book that let me relax, observe and imagine myself in that setting, living among those characters. I appreciated everyday conversations that allowed for thoughtful development of ideas from different perspectives. It was affirming to see people recognize disagreements and still find ways to talk together.
I felt very drawn to the exploration of how we accept/choose change in our lives. Whether young or old, change is the constant we all face. There was such compassion about the descriptions of ways characters explored adaptations, in spite of personal shortcomings.
I’d love to see a follow-up to this book. I have befriended the people in this community and am curious how their lives will continue to evolve!"
Livin' in Texas, Amazon Customer
About the Book
His daughter has captured the engaging life story of J. Winfield Fretz, the first Mennonite sociologist, told in his personable voice from childhood days on a Pennsylvania farm through years as a student, professor, researcher, author, and founding president of Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. The narrative voice ends with her conversations with him reflecting on simple matters of the heart. The author has drawn from over 300 letters between her father and his older brother, recorded interviews, letters of her mother's, and personal conversations with her father. Excerpts from others on their interactions with this wonderfully spirited man are included.
"If one were to select a score of the most influential American Mennonites of the past century, J. Winfield Fretz would be on that list. He was present at the threshold of so many enterprises that brought scattered, cautious, and hesitant Mennonites together. He was a leader in the renaissance of Mennonite studies—Mennonite Life, Mennonite Quarterly Review, Proceedings of Mennonite Cultural Conferences, Conrad Grebel Review, Institute of Mennonite studies, and research projects. Where in all academia has there been a Ph.D. with such a common touch? . For Winfield, being a Mennonite was invitational, hospitable, missional, good news."
- Robert Kreider, Mennonite historian and educator, Presdent Emeritus Bluffton University
"As one who was at Conrad Grebel University College during the founding years J. Winfield Fretz served as President, I can praise this book for its veracity. This is a marvelous book, not least for allowing her Dad to tell his life-story himself."
- John Miller, Professor emeritus of Religious Studies, Conrad Grebel University College
"J. Winfield Fretz was an important 20th-century Mennonite voice. His story "in his own words" is worth reading and pondering."
- Keith L. Sprunger, Oswald H. Wedel Professor of History Emeritus, Bethel College
"Simple Life Fretz is a well written biography of an extraordinary man who lived a simple but profoundly influential life. Dr. Fretz left his humble impact on many lives and this account, told in the first person, leaves the reader wondering how Dr. Fretz would interpret today's political climate, with its stark contrast to his inclusive and peace promoting view of life. This is a very good read and a wonderful tribute to a great man."
- Gretchen Sims, Amazon Customer
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading Simple Life Fretz. Besides learning about Winfield Fretz and his many accomplishments, the Fretz family stories added a wonderful perspective to this "kitchen table memoir". It is a look into family life of the mid 1900's. There are two things I took away from reading this book. First, the importance of the support and mentoring that Winfield received from his brother John and leaders in the academic and Mennonite community. People who receive guidance from mentors are very fortunate. Second, how much the wives sacrificed in support of their husband's careers. I saw so much of my mother in Marguerite. Husbands of that time were more or less free to pursue their careers while their wives remained in the background.
This book is a labor of love that shows in Sara's telling of her father's story."
- James Fretz, Amazon Customer
"Reading this well-written book made we wish that I would have met and known J. Winfeld in person. I was struck by his extraordinary desire, courage and wherewithal to start new adventures from starting a business to being president of a college. These intentional pursuits were an inspiration to me to live boldly and take risks to make a mark in the world. Although the title implies a simple man, I think his life story shows a deep and rich life of risk-taking, using his talents to make the world a better place, and intentionally fulfilling a meaningful existence."
- Lynda W. Stucky, Amazon Customer
"This was an interesting approach to the usual biography, using writings by JW Fretz to tell his life story as if he was indeed writing this memoir. I thought it worked quite well and read easily and smoothly. The author brought out very clearly both the effect he had on a number of institutions and events as well as the rather matter-of-fact way he had of being involved with so many things. Not much ego involved, just interesting things that could be done. He was clearly someone who was interested in many things and the reader gets the sense that he was often eagerly looking around for the next possibility coming his way."
- Su Flickinger, Amazon Customer