Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" by Rachel Held Evans

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" Rachel Held Evans
Published: October 30, 2012
ISBN: 9781595553676
Genre: Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Recommended for readers interested in women's studies and Biblical interpretation

Strong-willed and independent, Rachel Held Evans couldn't sew a button on a blouse before she embarked on a radical life experiment--a year of biblical womanhood. Intrigued by the traditionalist resurgence that led many of her friends to abandon their careers to assume traditional gender roles in the home, Evans decides to try it for herself, vowing to take all of the Bible's instructions for women as literally as possible for a year.

Pursuing a different virtue each month, Evans learns the hard way that her quest for biblical womanhood requires more than a "gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4). It means growing out her hair, making her own clothes, covering her head, obeying her husband, rising before dawn, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church, and even camping out in the front yard during her period.

See what happens when a thoroughly modern woman starts referring to her husband as "master" and "praises him at the city gate" with a homemade sign. Learn the insights she receives from an ongoing correspondence with an Orthodox Jewish woman, and find out what she discovers from her exchanges with a polygamist wife. Join her as she wrestles with difficult passages of scripture that portray misogyny and violence against women.

With just the right mixture of humor and insight, compassion and incredulity, "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" is an exercise in scriptural exploration and spiritual contemplation. What does God truly expect of women, and is there really a prescription for biblical womanhood? Come along with Evans as she looks for answers in the rich heritage of biblical heroines, models of grace, and all-around women of valor. 

My Thoughts:
This was one of those books that was....exactly what you would think it would be.   That isn't a bad 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.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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