One of my favorite bloggers, Heather Farrell, has a new book out: Walking with the Women of the New Testament, and I was sent a copy to review. It is a beautiful book, and it looks much better on my Ikea coffee table than the newsprint Harbor Freight Tools ads that pollute my mailbox ceaselessly and somehow never make their way to the recycling bin.
Besides the gorgeous cover and beautiful photographs inside, this book is filled with amazing stories and insights into the lives of women of the New Testament. I'm sometimes frustrated by how the scriptures are dominated by the stories and reflections of men, but this book offered a wonderful collection of scriptures, ideas, and historical contexts that all shed light on the immense value Christ placed on women throughout His ministry, as well as the important roles those women played in their Savior's work.
The book is divided into sections profiling nearly all the women mentioned in the New Testament. In each section, Heather Farrell provides scriptural references to the woman's story, offers clarifying historical context and insights into how the translation of the text can increase our understanding, and includes her well-constructed thoughts on what we as modern women can learn from our ancient sisters in the gospel. Her reflections often go much deeper than the Sunday-school interpretations we hear over and over--you can tell that she has pondered the lives of these women as real people rather than mere characters in a morality play.
This book has been especially moving to me as I prepare for the upcoming birth of my third child (I feel especially thankful for insight into Mary's story--I'm due the day after Christmas!). While this collection of stories makes it clear that Christ also values women for their contributions beyond the sphere of motherhood, there is a prominent theme of women being central both physically and symbolically to doctrines and events surrounding birth, nurturing, and resurrection. I've felt a greater connection to my Savior as I've read about the respect and compassion He had toward mothers.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is how the provided historical and cultural contexts add significance to the Savior's interactions with women. A small section dedicated to menstruation and the concept of being ritually "unclean" added a lot to my understanding of the story of the woman with an issue of blood, as well as to the symbolic meaning behind that part of the Mosaic law. Sections on marriage, death, divorce, and other topics were interesting and informative. Understanding the low social position of women at the time helped me appreciate how radical Christ's interactions with women must have been at the time as He taught them, treated them as equals, and invited them to contribute to His ministry.
The stylized photographs in the book are stunning and helped me imagine the women as real people. I felt better able to relate to their stories when I could picture them as women similar to myself. One critique, though: nearly all the women who modeled for the pictures are Caucasian. Personally, I felt like all the models should have been either historically accurate (Middle Eastern, Greek, black, etc.), or else should have represented the entire spectrum of races. I wonder if the latter option would have enhanced the book's ability to present these stories as relevant and relatable to the New Testament's diverse, modern, global audience. Otherwise, I did appreciate the variety in the models' ages, shapes, and physical features. The posing and costumes were also lovely.
I love this book, and I'm excited to add it to the "women and the gospel" section of my library. This would make an excellent addition to your own library, a great "welcome to Young Women" gift, or a wonderful Christmas present for anyone (men should learn about women in the scriptures, too!).
Amazon has a 30% deal on books going on right now, with the code HOLIDAY30. Use it to get a copy of Walking with the Women of the New Testament!
*I know this glowing review isn't written in my usual dorky, satirical style, but I didn't want there to be any confusion about how I really feel about this book--it's beautiful and inspiring and I legitimately recommend it.