Book Review: The Meaning of Wife

Dear Ms. Kingston,

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. When I was a child, I consumed books about the Holocaust at a slightly alarming rate, but since those simplistic, dumbed-down, glossy books, I’ve only finished one other work of non-fiction from cover-to-cover. I’m not sure if this means I’m discovering the genre. All I know is that, every day for the past two weeks, your book grabbed my attention from the moment I sat down in my seat on the bus until the moment I had to pull the string.

What grabbed me the most and what I am most thankful to you for, is that you didn’t tell me what to think. In fact, until the end of the book, you kept me guessing about what your thesis actually is. You presented marriage in such a way that it is both good and bad, it both strengthens and weakens, benefits and destroys. You made me proud, hesitant, nervous, worried, excited, and confident about being a wife. Most importantly, you made me actively think about being a wife.

And then, after you had made me think about everything, you finally hit me with a thesis that resonates so strongly, that just seems right, that makes sense. It’s a thesis that validates, affirms, even frees my marriage, in a way. It’s a thesis that reveals a world of possibility, of hope, a world in which I can stand up for my marriage. It’s a world I always knew was there but could never define.

I wish every new wife, male or female, would read your book. And every old wife. And every unwife. And every woman contemplating become a wife. It may become my go-to shower gift. I’ll probably start sneaking it onto gift tables at weddings. Christmases and birthdays. Gifts for no reason.

Now, someone just needs to write about this topic in such a sensible, true way from a religious perspective. Anyone?

Anyway, Anne, thank you. Thank you for saying what I thought I knew but wasn’t sure how to articulate. Thank you for acknowledging marriage as complicated, for stomping on the cookie cutter. Thank you for recognizing me as me and M as M and our marriage as our marriage and no one else’s. Thank you for throwing out the models, the models of divorce, of sticking it out through years of abuse, of standing quietly in the shadow, of first-wives clubs and of trophy wives and husbands.

Most of all, thank you for believing in marriage.

A wife

There is no singular meaning of wife. That is the point. That is its meaning. To see the wife fully through a multi-faceted lens is one of the central challenges facing society in the twenty-first century.

– Anne Kingston, p. 289




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3 responses to “Book Review: The Meaning of Wife

  1. Brian

    I haven’t seen this book anywhere, but I think I’ll have to track it down.

    FWIW, there’s abundant Christian writing on marriage that is excellent, insightful, theologically profound, and doesn’t kowtow to regnant patriarchal ideas of what constitutes “biblical” love.

    Start with Stanley Hauerwas. Read Wendell Berry’s poem “The Country of Marriage,” and just about every other essay he’s written about love, sex, and men and women.

    There’s also John Paul II’s theology of the body (you’ll find much to quarrel with, but even more that will enlighten you). Check out Rowan Williams’ “The Body’s Grace.” Etc., etc., etc..

    • I knew there would be someone out there to recommend me more books! In fact, I could have guessed it would be you. Thank you. 🙂

      I had a hard time finding this book, actually. I bought it for myself and my sister when I got married on a recommendation from a (practical) wedding blogger. I had to order it: it wasn’t in stock anywhere that was easily accessible for me. Hopefully that’s changed in the past 6 months. But if you can’t find it anywhere, I would be glad to lend it to you.

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