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As a young woman, I am acutely aware of the how body image issues plague our society. Personally, my struggles really began with my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. I felt like my body betrayed me, and though my faith grew, I struggled to find a connection between my improving spiritual health and weakening physical health. Here I am, three years later, trying to understand how my body is a temple when it is so broken in its functionality, the scars of treatment (and a surgery) are visible on my stomach, and my weight fluctuates.
Along came When We Were Eve by Colleen C. Mitchell. This book was an answer to that question: how can I reconcile these challenges I’m having with the knowledge my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
In this book, Mitchell “draws on the creation story in Genesis to show women God’s gracious plan for their whole being: body and soul in harmony with themselves, others, creation and their Creator. Through her own story and those of other women, she explores the many ways women struggle with their bodies and the way a biblical understanding of what it means to be a woman can bring them peace and joy.”
Mitchell’s book explores what it would’ve been like to be Eve prior to the Fall: what it would’ve been like to be in harmony with God, our bodies, and our partners.
This book knocked out Praying the Rosary Like Never Before as my favorite read of 2017. My review could be summarized quite simply as every woman should read this book.
Almost every chapter of the book is organized in the same way. Mitchell begins with a personal story and then expands on it to a general experience to which nearly any woman can relate to in some way. Amidst these excellent reflection lies a story from Scripture. Mitchell makes strong connections between these passages and the theme of the chapter while exploring the human emotions that may have been occurring at that time. The chapter ends with a story from a different woman and some questions to carry the message further. This layout draws the reader in and educates while also making it both a spiritually enriching and relatable experience.
The content of this book was fantastic. Mitchell made great connections between the body and soul. She provided a number of perspectives that challenged the idea that our bodies are bad and only our souls are good. She also didn’t shy away from the hard topics like sex, mental illness, and weaknesses of members in the Catholic Church. Mitchell took these on delicately while also giving them their due attention. All the issues she discussed in this book were in desperate need of being addressed, and she did so in a way that was theologically sound without being intimidating.
Mitchell’s writing style was also amazing. It would be easy to be intimidated by the wisdom in this book if it weren’t complemented with the vulnerability Mitchell shared. I didn’t feel like I was being talked at; I felt like I was working through these topics with here. Sometimes, our attempts to discuss body issues for women ends up being too shallow; we talk about women being beautiful daughters of God without really digging into the brokenness. However, this book explores that brokenness, digs into it, and opens it up, enabling us to be filled with the goodness of God’s mercy. Overall, the book was beautifully written. It was relatable, and there were many times I found myself highlighting quotes to come back to later or resisting the urge to cheer “yes! someone else gets it.”
I cannot recommend this book enough. Though I would love for every woman to read this, the content is obviously most appropriate for Christian women, namely Catholics.
You can read my other book reviews here.