I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this book when I was asked to review it. But as I read the description and learned that it had caused some protests in Europe when it first came out in 2012, I knew I had to read it to learn more. You can understand, with a title that tells women to be submissive, that there would be a high degree of backlash in this day and age. And truth be told, those who advocate for women to be more like men in every way would object to many of the ideas presented in this book.
Newsflash! These would be the same people who don’t like the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage, femininity, birth control, sex, and a whole host of other issues. Author Costanza Miriano does nothing more than share the beauties of the Catholic faith and uphold the feminine genius that is innate in all women. The wonderful way in which she does this (and with a lot of humor mixed in) is what makes this book a worthwhile read.
I want to tell you more about why this is a book worth reading, but first I think it is important to talk a bit about the structure. Each chapter is divided into three sections: a letter to a friend, a discussion of the topic from the letter with a bit of Church teaching thrown in, and a short update on the situation from the letter.
I enjoyed the variety of topics that were discussed and will admit that the sections of each chapter I connected with the most was the second section in which a topic is discussed more fully. This section is where the author’s opinions on a topic are more fully fleshed out and where you’ll find references to Catholic Church teaching and quotes from Scripture, Catholic writers (like Chesterton), and saints. These sections of each chapter really felt to me like the real meat of the book and is where I found the most worthwhile reading to be.
The letters were enjoyable, the author is a good story-teller, and she does an excellent job pulling in many examples from her own life. Those real world examples also helped me connect with Costanza as a real person. She doesn’t try to paint her busy life as a working mom to four kids as perfect in any way; she lays it all out there and lets her readers see all the nitty-gritty of everyday life. What is brilliant about starting each chapter with a letter is the ability to take a very personal, casual tone to make the reader feel comfortable.
One thing that might feel a bit distracting for some is that the author takes a fair number of tangents throughout her writing. I will confess that I often do the same thing when telling a story (just ask my husband), so I didn’t find it hugely distracting (maybe it’s a woman thing?). And she always comes back to her main points, so there are never any loose ends. One recommendation I have is to make sure you can read each letter in one sitting; it could get difficult if you put the book down in the middle of one of the letters and come back a day or so later. The writing style may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
For Catholics there is nothing objectionable in this book. She discusses marriage, its importance in the faith, and the importance of couples coming together to start a family. She discusses children, from having babies to raising kids, from the overwhelming job of newborns to the struggles of teenagers. She highlights why we educate our children, emphasizes that the parents are the primary educators, and bemoans the secular society we have to prepare our children for. She discusses Natural Family Planning, attacks birth control, and upholds life as paramount to our faith. I was particularly touched by the chapters on fatherhood and why it’s so incredibly important for our children to have good, strong, faith-filled fathers, as well as the chapters (of which there were many) calling women to embrace their femininity, not to shy away from it or push it aside.
So my final judgement is that it’s worth reading. I can’t say that I necessarily learned anything new, but I found it affirming and enjoyed the different approach to what can often be very contentious topics. If you are looking for something to affirm your femininity, this book will do that. If you are curious how real women deal with the everyday struggles of being a faithful Catholic while balancing family, work, and whatever else we have on our plates, Costanza shares her own struggles to make it work. If you are not Catholic and are curious about how Catholic women can live the way the Church teaches, this is a great book for showing that it can be done and that Catholic women love the Church and want to be faithful to Her.
If you are interested in buying the book, it is currently available at Tan Books for $24.95. It should also be noted that it is a translation. Originally published in Italian in 2012, Tan is now making it available in English. Colloquialisms sometimes get lost in translations, so keep that in mind while reading it.
If you do pick up this book and give it a read, I hope you will enjoy it. I did.