Reviewed by: Abby Harting
Questions Women Asked: Historical Issues, Timeless Answers, by Simonetta Carr. Reformation Heritage, 2021. Paperback, 240 pages, $14.00. Reviewed by OP member Abby Harting.
Questions Women Asked: Historical Issues, Timeless Answers is a valuable and quick read that covers roughly two thousand years of church history from the perspective of women who thoughtfully engaged with church leaders—sort of like Choosing the Good Portion did for eighty years of Orthodox Presbyterian history!
Simonetta Carr has previously published wonderful stories of heroes of the Reformation and church history as children’s books and is a capable storyteller who catches the reader’s imagination. Questions is different from these previous stories as it was born from a blog project, “Cloud of Witnesses,” where Carr brought to light people whom the Lord used during the Reformation. Because of this, the book has an almost conversational tone as it introduces many women who participated in the life of the church and the work of the kingdom in diverse ways.
It is comprised of thirty-one mini biographies, each dealing with a specific woman, the question she asked, and the thoughtful answers given by the theologian or church leader with whom she was engaging through letters or personal discussion. The majority of the biographies are of lesser-known women. You will not find Katherina Von Bora or Jeanne d’Albret here, but you will come to know Dorothy Leigh and Kata Bethlen while being reintroduced to Monica, Anne Bradstreet, and Phillis Wheatley.
Although each biography introduces a different woman, the book deals with questions that are applicable to all Christians. Twenty-two chapters discuss such topics as: Can I be a secret believer? Should we speak against injustice? and How can I be sure I am saved? The other nine chapters cover questions that, while specific to women, are themes that any Christian could find useful or interesting.
Biographies like these, and especially Christian biography, can be difficult to write and read. The author must write in such a way to encourage the reader, but without creating a false, sinless representation of a real person who lived and struggled with the same sins and strife that we live with today. One weakness of Questions Women Asked is that these women are celebrated for their good work, and this creates potential paragons.
The other critique that could be leveled at the book is that it covers so much history in such a short volume. At only 240 pages, each of the book’s mini biographies must be narrow in focus and shallow in treatment. To compensate, Carr includes recommended reading at the end of each chapter, along with discussion questions for group use.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to sisters in Christ, that they would be encouraged like Tryphaena and Tryphosa to work hard in the Lord (Rom. 16:12).
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