When I first heard the rumblings that Betty Beguiles’ Hallie Lord was writing a book I grew eager with anticipation. When I read the title, Style, Sex, & Substance, I knew I’d like it. When I saw the list of contributors – several of whom rank among my favorite writers – I knew I’d love it. And when Hallie, the book’s editor, told me she was going to use my suggestion of introducing her contributors like in the awkward scene from Bridget Jones’ Diary, well I knew there was no way I could not love it.
The back of the book asks the question, “Who is to say who the authentic Catholic woman is?” which is perfect because I’ve had conversations with all of my Catholic friends about what our faith will – and should – look like as we live it out in our homes, marriages, parishes, and places of work. Reading Style, Sex, & Substance is a lot like going to a coffee shop with a group of girlfriends and having one of those conversations. As I read through the chapters I often felt like the words the author was saying could have been coming from one of my friends. It was funny, affirming, honest, and orthodox and never did it belittle a woman who may have a different perspective. The book is written by ladies who are “in the trenches” but they share their stories and insights in ways that build unity among Catholic women.
The writing is clear and fluent, especially Danielle Bean’s – whose humor shines in her chapter, “We Said Yes”, and Barbara Nicolosi’s – whose intelligent “Plugging In and Embracing Discipleship in the Twenty-First Century” left me with a lot to ponder. Every chapter had something to soothe my soul, make me laugh, and examine my perspective. Elizabeth Duffy’s chapter, “Sex, Passion, and Purity”, made me blush more than once.
So, who would enjoy this book? I think it’s probably best for those Catholic women who are already living, though maybe struggling with, our lives according to the teachings of the Church. There is theology in the book but usually the authors are assuming a foundational understanding and knowledge of Church teaching in a “we’re all in this together” kind of a way. I know a couple of fallen away Catholics would probably be pleasantly surprised, if not shocked, at how approachable, real, smart, and fun the authors are – no stodgy, mean, old women here – but this book is not meant to be Mulieris Dignitatem and women expecting that will be disappointed.
This book would make a great bridal shower gift or work really well as a book club book. Each chapter ends with questions and reflections which could make for some great conversations with girlfriends over a glass of wine and some chocolate. As a former campus minister I would also recommend this book for college women to read. If I would have had this book back in my ministry days I would have invited all the girls to be a part of a Sex, Style, and Substance discussion group twice a month featuring a different mentor guest at each meeting to share how the author’s thoughts and experiences are similar to her own. Hallie’s book, coupled with real life mentors and discussions would have been a beautiful, fun, fruitful experience for my single self and the discerning students I worked with.
Sex, Style, and Substance was a fun, thoughtful read. Did you read it? What were your thoughts?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/BEngstrom-e1314017018199.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have four children: one in Heaven and three wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She is the Assistant Director for Behold: A Catholic Conference on the Dignity and Vocation of Women and she blogs at Learning to be a Newlywed.[/author_info] [/author]