March 9, 2009
The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson
Fleeing an unwanted forced marriage, orphan Mary runs away to the woods of England. She is worried about the wild creatures and outlaws that live there, but willing to take her chances. Her nurse Agnes follows her, and proves to be an essential companion and mentor, who is knowledgeable of herbal healing and wilderness survival. They become part of a community of people who live in the forest avoiding the oppression of local lords, including Agnes’ son Robert.
The idea of a Forestwife, a wisewoman healer who lives in the woods is cool, and makes sense- wouldn’t the Merry Men need a healer? And I also like the description of the seasons and what people did in preparation/reaction to them.
The story was well-told, and historical authenticity fleshed out the feel of the setting. The dialogue uses a lot of archaic words, which might be difficult for some, but I found it understandable.
It seemed like Theresa Tomlinson really did her research, and it helps that she grew up in the areas associated with the Robin Hood legends! This is part of a trilogy, the other books are Child of the May, and Path of the She-Wolf, the latter has only been published in the UK unfortunately. However it does look like there are copies available online for decent prices.
March 17, 2008
The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: a Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd
A traditional Southern Baptist wife and mother, Sue Monk Kidd had never really questioned her role as a woman in the church or society as a whole. Yet a series of incidents led her to realize all was not right, and that she needed to look for spirituality outside of mainstream religious institutions. Whereas before she was taught that authority was only in the Bible, she came to see her own experiences as valid- that she was her own authority. I found the book to be an inspiring source of ideas for developing one’s own personal spirituality- creating ritual, sacred spaces and concepts of Deity.
One thing I found refreshing about this book, is that Kidd does not bash men or blame them as a group for inequality. She acknowledges that both men and women are hurt by patriarchy- that men need the Divine Feminine as much as women do. Nor does she say mainstream Christianity is wrong per se, only that it has its limitations and needs to strive towards balance in matters of gender as well as between human beings and the natural world.
The main criticism I do have of Dance, is that I question the accuracy of some of the information on ancient religions and cultures she presents as facts. However this is a memoir, not a scholarly work so I’m going to cut the author some slack in that area.