Melinda Ott, August 5, 2015 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
This was one of those books that was....exactly what you would think it would be. That isn't a bad thing...it just is what it is. I think the first issue that I should address is the similarity between this book and A.J. Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically. Yes, they are similar--and Evans even mentions that in one point. However, I really feel that Evans has the upper hand in this face off. For one thing, this book has a better focus than A.J. Jacobs' work. While Jacobs seems to come from the viewpoint of, "Hey, let's try to be religious," Evans goes into her project to explore an issue--Biblical Womanhood--that she encounters in her own life.
I will admit I had a little trouble categorizing this book in my mind. On one hand, there is a definitely "Christian Living" element to that. However, while Evans does talk about her own faith, the book itself is more of a cross between a memoir and historical research. This isn't a book I would say is JUST for Christians. It doesn't come across as preachy at all and non-Christian readers, provided they are tolerant of others' beliefs, would probably enjoy it as well, In fact, if there was a group who would be more likely to be offended by this book, it would be Conservative Evangelical Christians.
I really enjoyed Evans's writing. It was casual and conversational, but not at all glib. She is very respectful of beliefs that don't match her own--and my favorite parts were when she referred to Orthodox Judaism and her virtual friend who was serving as her expert. She also includes some of her husband's diary entries, which adds a nice dimension to her narrative.
She did visit some communities and people who were on the more extreme ends of the spectrum--the Amish, a polygamist, a quiverfull follower. I will say that, while these episodes were interesting, they didn't stick with me as much as other parts of the books. Mostly, I remember reading Evans' mishaps as she tried to adopt some extreme behaviors.
All in all, it was a readable, if not exactly surprising, book. I would recommend it to most anyone, and would definitely recommend it over other similar books.
David Jordan, November 6, 2014 (view all comments by David Jordan)
This is an enormously enjoyable book for anyone who is interested in learning about the journey of a conservative Christian woman in the American south who goes from biblical literalist to thoughtful progressive with a simple experiment: attempt to follow Scripture's instructions for women word-for-word. The result is amusing, even hilarious, as the author attempts to navigate the difficulties of becoming a "biblical woman" in contemporary evangelical culture. This is a very encouraging and thoughtful treatment of what it means to be a faithful Christian woman in the midst of a Christian culture that is confused about its identity, especially where women are concerned. Highly recommended.
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I recant! This is a really excellent book, not very cute but very engaging and sometimes funny, that deconstructs cults of "scriptural womanhood" with a kindly, respectful, and illuminating eye to biblical scholarship, multi-faith perspectives, and cultural anthropologies.
As one who has recently learned classical Hebrew, I was very pleased with Held Evans's use and explanation of terms in the Hebrew Bible. It is oddly novel of her to notice that claims about what scripture enjoins are best considered through original-language text-- and her consultation with Jewish women, a Israeli rabbi's wife in particular, is very welcome, yet proportioned to be palatable for readers who typically find scholarship a snooze.
As one who was raised as a liberal Christian, I equaly appreciate Held Evans's explanation of assumptions common to conservative Protestantism-- both her gentle descriptions and her treatment of them as options.
And it was a treat to read accounts of Held Evans's ventures into and toward faith-cultures that aren't hers, including not only practicing Judaism but Anabaptism and quiverful groups. Treating the woman she met and who offered her hospitality as equals who find things of value in their practices and seeking to understand that value takes the reader into interesting territory, largely new to me, without distasteful snark.
This is a treasure of a book for those interested in thinking about (or practicing) roles and duties assigned or granted to women in the Bible or today's United States. And it has much to offer readers of all sorts of faith and faith experience.
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