It’s a bit like coming down from a high, or how I’d imagine that would be if I had any experience in that department (I’m hopelessly square), coming to the end of Jen Hatmaker’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Jen herself, and I couldn’t stop listening for three straight days, simultaneously eager to hear what she had to say, but also disappointed to see how quickly the minutes remaining diminished.
Admittedly, up until this month, this is the sort of book I would not have read or listened to. It’s very…Jesus-y, and up until recently, that wasn’t my jam (or so I thought). But despite that, or, rather, because of it, this was a beautifully done book. For me, it was like reading the thoughts of or sitting in on a conversation with a very dear friend. A friend who speaks to you lovingly, but is also hysterical, and helps you look at life in a different way.
Jen covers a very wide range of topics, often taking a stance that I found myself nodding in agreement to, feeling reassured about the latest turn in my spiritual journey. She illustrates a God and Jesus who were supremely loving, accepting, and more importantly, inclusive of all people from all walks of life. As someone who previously turned away from Christianity because of all the exclusivity I have felt and seen, this was profoundly important and made my heart feel good.
Because I’m not an auditory learner, I can’t give specific moments or quotes from the book that best showcase this good feeling I’m left with, and while I get that the word of a stranger from the internet isn’t exactly something to put a lot of stake in, I do ask that you take my word for it. This book is good. The religious emphasis aside, Jen has incredible insight on what it is like to be a mother and wife in the thick of life. I felt so understood, nearly in tears from the very beginning, from the relief of hearing someone put clear words to so much of what I had going on in my head. I could have been a stone-cold atheist and still, likely, felt at least some of the truth she was speaking.
If you are an auditory learner, or a love of audiobooks, I do strongly recommend the audio version of this book (though I think I’ll be buying a hardcopy of the book later this fall). Jen’s reading and “bonus content” (all the parentheticals her editor told her to take out of the original manuscript…which were hilarious) were fan-freaking-tastic. The reading felt far less like a reading and more like a radio show or podcast (all things I love, despite not being a strong auditory person).
The one downside I found to the book was not necessarily a downside for me, but could be for others. The book, in many cases, spoke loudly and clearly to mothers and wives, but may, in some instances, resonate less with single women or non-mothers. There’s certainly still a lot there for those subgroups of women, and I get the feeling that mothers and wives are sort of Jen’s “tribe”, BUT the book was billed for all women, and while all women would likely be welcomed and loved by Jen, I’m not sure this book would be a home run for all women.
Also, for an evangelical Christian, Jen is super progressive, making a clear embrace of the LBGTQ community in multiple spots of her book. She also touches on making sure we have safe spaces for people and that many people face oppression that we don’t understand because we haven’t faced it (read: white privilege). This is awesome, especially considering the subculture she’s speaking from. But. Her clear emphasis on women (and men) in traditional gender roles sort of drove me nuts. Not enough to not love the book or to get oodles and oodles out of it, but enough to have that little gnawing feeling just at the pit of my stomach. I have reminded myself, however, she has a specific world she’s speaking from and a specific set of women to whom she’s speaking, where these traditional roles are very much the norm (my home included). But, if we’re going to talk about embracing the LBGTQ community, if we’re going to be asked to think about others perspectives, why not also make that jump to nontraditional gender role and identities, for that matter?