I read a lot and I tend to read books I know I will like, at least moderately. I’m willing to try new books outside my comfort zone, but only with good recommendations and reviews from friends. That is why I decided to read Captivating. A good friend recommended it to me on her blog, and several other people posted comments about how the book was amazing, how it’s the only book that’s ever made them cry, and so on. So I bought it on my newly-acquired nook Color. And then I proceeded to want to stab myself in the eyes at the thought of finishing it. (Sorry, Linds.) That’s right, I completely, utterly hated this book.
But first, I’m going to start with the (few) things I liked. Toward the end of the book there are a few pieces that really stood out to me. I feel like so much of this book was misdirected and not really Biblical enough, but in the notes section of my nook I literally wrote “Finally! Something they get right!” In their tenth chapter, one on mothers, daughters, and sisters (and the best chapter, in my opinion), the Eldredges write “A woman is not less of a woman because she is not a wife or has not physically born a child.” Wow. I think most people would agree with that. Unfortunately, that is not how the first two-thirds of the book make you feel, but at least they attempted to go there, however unsuccessfully. When talking about friendships women have with other women, they write “The friendships of women inhabit a terrain of great mystery. Movies like Beaches, or Fried Green Tomatoes, or Steel Magnolias try to capture this.” Okay, so maybe it’s the fact that they mentioned two of my three favorite movies (Beaches and Steel Magnolias) that I liked this, but I do think it’s true. The friendships I have with other women are incredibly complex. My closest friends and I have been through so much together. As teenagers, we fought tooth and nail sometimes over boys, clothes, and the one year I lived with two friends, over attention. We were mean to each other and yet we were friends. Today, we “auntie” each others’ kids, and we have long facebook email messages, and we fly to visit each other, and yet we’re still holding each other accountable, and there’s still that painful history of before. So my point is, the Eldredges get it right here — female relationships are pretty hard to explain simply.
One last point, and it kind of ties in to my first quote above: in a chapter that deals about women and men together (called “Arousing Adam,” which, seriously, don’t even get me started!), there’s a quote that I wish most women could embrace: “We say all this as a sort of prologue because we cannot talk about loving a man well — whoever he might be in your life — until we see that we cannot look to him for things he cannot give.” Okay, yes, absolutely. No man can or should give a woman her value. My perspective, and the perspective the authors try to hit but kind of miss, is that a woman’s value should come from God (and I’m aware that not everyone agrees, but that’s okay — I’m just trying to get to the heart of the book here) and God alone. The authors are well-meaning, well-intentioned, but by the time they write this they’ve written so many other things that seem contradictory to this single statement.
And now, the sheer badness that made me give this book one star on Goodreads (only because I couldn’t give it a zero or a half star). First of all, I have a really, really hard time with the fact that the book about unveiling a woman’s feminine soul is co-authored by a man. Sure the man is the female author’s husband, and he’s a noted author (he wrote the male “equivalent” of this book, called Wild At Heart). But still. I feel the same way about his co-authoring this book as I feel about seeing a male OB/GYN. Just not going to happen. There are several places where Stasi writes about how she didn’t feel like she could do this on her own, she was nervous to do this, and then bam, in swoops her hero and writes it with her. Thank you for entirely defeating your point that women don’t need men to find success in their lives.
Which brings me to something I felt sick reading: the Eldredge’s description as women. Basically, we are all screwed up and twisted thanks to our parents, who, in various forms, were all crappy. Either your parent was overtly horrible, by abusing you somehow, or they didn’t want you, or they were apathetic toward you. Sure, there are a lot of women I know who have dealt with struggles in their lives that trace directly back to parental woes. Take me: I rarely saw my father growing up. I’ve had problems with relationships with men because of that. My mother was an alcoholic and we moved so many times that I went to ten elementary schools. I struggle with my relationship with her and because of that, sometimes with the relationship I have with the person I call Mom. But I know a lot of women who have great relationships with their parents, and even those who’ve had hard ones — they’ve turned out okay. There are just too many absolutes in this book for it to be good — all women are, all women are, all women are.
Compounding this idea of absolutes is this line, one that brings great pain to my soul: “Women pretty much fall into one of three categories: Dominating Women, Desolate Women, or Arousing Women.” Oh. My. Word. When I read this, I almost fell out of my bed in shock. Arousing women are, of course, what we should desire to be. I honestly don’t think I need to explain my horror in this idea that women fall into three categories. How do you become an arousing woman? Why, you seduce a man, of course. But, dear reader, not in the sexual sense. The authors “mean it as a principle, a picture of how femininity can arouse masculinity in many, many ways.” In this book, there is supposed to be zero sexual connotation of the words “arousing” and “seduce.” Expect that the authors then proceed to give examples of… women literally sexually seducing their husbands. Whoops, their bad.
Because, duh, didn’t you know? “The beauty of a woman is what arouses the strength of a man. He wants to play the man when a woman acts like that [when she acts feminine]. You can’t hold him back. He wants to come through. And this desire is crucial.” So despite the fact that the authors told us that women don’t need men to give them what it is that they need, it’s a woman’s responsibility to use her femininity to arouse a man’s masculinity. So us single women pretty much have nothing to give because I’ve got no man to arouse. (Can I point out that this chapter begins with a quote from a Sheryl Crow song, which is so laughable for so many reasons — “Are you strong enough to be my man?”)
There are also a few examples of relationships that are clearly abusive and the wife stuck around in order to arouse her husband’s masculinity and fix their marriage. And I quote, “Rather than becoming hard and cynical, she remained soft. Rather than just giving up, she held on to her desire for something more with him.” Okay, that I can understand. You want to work on it. You go to counseling. You get help. But no, there’s no mention of these things; rather, there is this: “Even though she chose not to respond, she retained her feminine beauty and offered it as much as she could.” This is why there is hidden abuse in Christian homes. Ugh. It makes me sick thinking of it. No woman should be encouraged to use her femininity to “seduce” or “arouse” her abusive husband in hopes that it softens his heart and he quits abusing her. Absurd!
Also, at the end of this, I feel like this book was not grounded in the Bible. There were quotes from the Bible, but they were what my mom, who teaches high school English, likes to refer to as “cow plots quotes”: they were just there. Not integrated into the text, with little elaboration on how or why they fit with the particular section they were in. I also feel like this book would make any counselor, even a Christian one, have a seizure with its misrepresentation how how women function. I mean, what do I know, except for the fact that I have a master’s degree in counseling and guidance and was required to take just a few counseling classes.
This is pretty much the book. Women, beware. It’s quite a deceptive read, and I urge you to use caution if you’re looking for a good, Christian book.
Rating: 1/10 (As I mentioned at the beginning, there were a FEW good parts.)