Monday, May 22

Book Review: Feminine Appeal

Seven Virtues of A Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney

Feminine Appeal is based around what Carolyn Mahaney calls the seven feminine virtues listed for us in Titus 2:3-5:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Each of the positive characteristics listed in these verses--loving one's husband, loving one's children, being self-controlled, being pure, working at home, being kind, and being submissive to one's husband--is given a chapter of it's own to discuss ways to cultivate that characteristic. I'd say that this little book is one of the ways Carolyn Mahaney carries out the command in the first part of the quoted passage: that older women teach younger women how to behave in a way that promotes the gospel by showing how it transforms lives.

I always come to this sort of book with a bit of apprehenshion, because there are a couple of concerns I have about "how to live" books in general. I'm happy to be able to say that Carolyn Mahaney's managed to walk the tight-rope and avoid these possible weaknesses for the most part.

One concern I have is that the real life examples given in a book of this kind will set such high standards that they will be discouraging rather than encouraging to women who are young and inexperienced. I've always had a bit of a compulsive streak, and I read some books when I was younger that ended up being more of a hindrance than a help because deep down, I felt like I ought to be copying perfectly every example in the book, so I was not satisfied with what was good enough or with what worked best in my situation. That's the reason I'm glad I had at least a couple of real-life mentors, in addition to the books I read, because real-life mentors sometimes have dust bunnies under the kitchen table and children who misbehave, and seeing that helps the perfectionist sort--like me--avoid unrealistic expectations. While Carolyn Mahaney uses herself and her own life as examples throughout the book, she wisely lets us see some of her dust bunnies, reminding us through her choice of examples that these are characteristics that we will spend a lifetime developing, and that none of us shows these characteristics perfectly all the time.

The other fear I have with books like this is that we'll be given firm rules where scripture gives us only general principles. All women are different, with different talents, interests, and circumstances; and the virtues given us in Titus 2 can be lived out in many different ways that take into consideration our particular talents, interests, and circumstances. That's why I like that Carolyn Mahaney used example from various women in various circumstances throughout this book so that the reader can see different ways the principles can be carried out in individual women's lives.

Feminine Appeal gets my recommendation as a book that will be helpful for both young women looking to live out their faith in their lives, and for older women who want to take up the challenge to provide both good teaching and good example to younger women.

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