"Not only does it explain what God "requires" of a Christian wife, but it explaines clearly how to obey God's commandments in order to become that wife. Get it, read it and profit from it." Amazon book description for The Excellent Wife.
This book has been mentioned as one of the best books on Biblical womanhood and as a must read for any Christian woman by many bloggers, podcasters and writers whom I have really enjoyed and learned from so I have had this book on my to read list for quite some time. This book wasn't available through my local public library system but I recently found an audio version through Christian Audio and was very excited to listen to it.
Unfortunately that enthusiasm didn't last. While I agree with many of the points that Martha makes in this book, the tone comes across as condescending and harsh at times. It is a challenging book and at first I thought it was just that I was having a hard time with the content because it was convicting me of things which I need to work on or improve but it was more than that.
The one big thing that sticks out to me as being just plain wrong (in my opinion, but also backed up by other biblical teachings) is that women are only able to glorify God through service to their husbands. Women and men were both created in the image of God to glorify Him. Yes, Eve was created second to be a suitable helper to Adam but the Bible says, "Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26 NIV (emphasis added by me)
We were created to work together with our husbands, to be partners and co-heirs of God's kingdom with them. And, yes, we are instructed in the Bible that wives are to be submissive to our husbands as they are the head of our household and God has given them that authority but they are not the ultimate authority, God alone has that position regardless of our gender or marital status.
Saying that women are to bring glory to God only through serving and respecting our husbands is creating a slippery slope towards making out husband an idol and giving him a place in our lives and our hearts that should only belong to God.
There are some positive things about this book as well. Martha uses scripture as her basis and quotes it often alongside examples from her own life. I especially loved her description in the beginning of the book of her life before becoming a Christian and her response to some of the teachings that she herself is now telling women are so important. It helps to know that I am not the only one who struggles with things like being a submissive wife.
As I stated before, there are many points on which I agree with Martha. I do believe we are called to be submissive to our husbands but that we are not called to be silent doormats for our husbands. In this book, she gives many examples of how to respectfully approach our husbands when we disagree about something, how to talk to them about their own sin and even what to do when they aren't responsive to what we say but we believe they are sinning and it is something that needs to be dealt with.
Another thing I really liked is the image in the beginning which shows the qualities of an excellent wife. I plan to print this out and add it to my journal so I will be regularly reminded of these qualities and work on them.
For the most part I would say this was a good book though it was difficult as well. I think some of my difficulties with it lie in the fact that I was listening to the audio version. I typically prefer physical books where I can underline and highlight and come back to things which are hard to swallow and the audio version doesn't allow for that. This particular audio version also wasn't formatted well, it was broken down into 7 parts, each about 70 minutes in length. This made it really hard to digest as there was a lot of information packed into each of those parts. I would have preferred to have it broken down further into chapters as the book is. Having the smaller sections would have made it easier to listen to a small chunk and then ruminate on that before jumping back in.
I know this is probably a confusing review but I am honestly conflicted on my feelings about this book. I plan to purchase a copy of this book and possibly the accompanying study guide at some point in the future and go through it more thoroughly. I think this is a book that needs to be read a few times to get the most out of it and I would highly recommend reading it with an open mind and heart and an open Bible so you can verify for yourself that she is being true to what scripture says.
This is definitely a case where one needs to use their personal discernment while reading to know what is true and what is leading the reader slightly astray. Most of the book is Biblically sound and gives wonderful information for wives but there are things that I disagreed with and will have to research further on my own.