Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mothers of the Church: the Witness of Early Christian Women (book review)

I recently had the opportunity to read and review a new Catholic book, Mothers of the Church: the Witness of Early Christian Women and I'm excited to tell you what I thought about it:

What it is:
Mothers of the Church tells the stories of some of the earliest heroines of the Christian faith (all of the women featured lived and died by the year 500 at the latest.)

Who wrote it:
Mike Aqulina and Christopher Bailey, two Catholic writers with dozens of books under their belts, including this book's precursor, The Fathers of the Church by Aquilina

First impression:
I immediately liked the cover art, and upon reading, the introduction of the book. The authors have a great sense of humor and humility, and a knack for storytelling.

Overall impressions:
I think this book fills a much needed void in the market. While it is written at an adult level and I think adult women will love it (I did!), the subject material would also be appropriate in my opinion for many pre-teen and teenage girls (There is discussion of human sacrifice in the Roman arena without a ton of gore, and some minimal detail in mention of brothels, so use your judgment on whether it'd be appropriate reading for your own daughter.) I devoured books about Florence Nightingale, Betsy Ross, and Joan of Arc as a pre-teen and beyond. But there aren't many books about women worth emulating before a couple hundred years ago, and I know I for one would've been thrilled to have a book like this about heroic early Christian women!
I thought they did a great job of providing background on the social and political structure at the time these women were alive and an excellent job of using interesting primary sources (ancient texts by people who actually knew these women and sometimes by the women themselves-translated into English, of course). My favorites were the pieces written by the early Christian women themselves.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was its structure. The authors seemed to switch rather abrubtly from one remarkable woman to another, and the lack of transitions was rather jarring. Basically, they introduce each woman, then had some long quotations from their primary sources about that woman. And then they introduced the next woman. I would've liked some conclusion/transition paragraphs from the authors before moving on to the next woman, especially because when the authors did write (like the introductory paragraphs for each woman) I really enjoyed their sensibility and how they had a sense of humor without being irreverent. My only other complaint is that they didn't go into more detail on each woman. I admit to being a little bit of a history nerd, so maybe it's just me, but I would've loved a whole chapter on each woman with many more sections from the primary sources. I definitely found myself wanting more!

Pros:
  • Great topic
  • Easy read
  • Well-written
Cons:
  • Abrupt transitions
  • Some dark historical references inappropriate for kids
The Bottom Line:
This is a great book about some amazing women most Christians probably don't know much about. Definitely worth buying as a Mother's Day gift (especially for a Godmother present), and I also recommend it for teenage and college girls who are interested in historical women (I think it'd be a nice confirmation present or graduation present).

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post.

*Due to some sort of computer glitch, this book keeps inactivating on the Catholic Company website. If you can't find it on their website but want to order it, give them a call or e-mail them. They do have it!

4 comments :

Leslie Klinger said...

thank you for this review. I have an 11 year old niece and wondered if this would be a good book for her to read. Again, thank you!

Crunchy Con Mommy said...

Glad I could help Leslie! If not this year, I'd definitely recommend reconsidering it again in a couple years when she is older. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Anonymous said...

nice job..keep it up

Anonymous said...

great post