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Book Review by Julie Terry
“Marriage to a Difficult Man” by Elisabeth D. Dodds

Biographies have been some of my favorite reads throughout my adult life- especially of women in similar life situations. So when my husband brought home this book, and explained that it was highly recommended and about one of my favorite historical pastor’s wives, Sarah Edwards…I was very eager to dive into its pages. I was a little confused about the title, however. I equated “difficult” with “bad husband”…but learned that the difficulty had to do with his calling to travel often, his convictional stands that often left his family feeling unaccepted in the community, and his attention to detail (for example, he wrote himself 70 Resolutions to live by, and read them every week, one of them being, “To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.”) Considering these things, I can understand that though he was known for his love and respect for his wife,  he would not have been an “easy” man to live with.

The book was written in 1971, and can be found in its original hardcover, or in an updated paperback version here:
So what makes this book unique in the realm of Christian Women Biographies?

1- It is honest without being disrespectful.

So many biographies leave the reader to wonder if the person being described ever made a mistake, or struggled at all! Or, a book seems written to point out the flaws in a great leader of the past. This book strikes a nice balance- I felt that I could empathize with Sarah, but only grew in my respect of her!

2- The subject is undeniably worth studying.

I have often heard, “success leaves clues.” In the world of motherhood, I do not see how Sarah Edwards could not be considered a resounding success! Many historians have pointed out the long lists of contributors to church, government, and community the descendants of Jonathan Sarah Edwards compile. With Jonathan doing much traveling, we must give much credit to the mother in family. Sarah exemplified selfless service before her children, inspired her children, and taught them diligently…and we can learn much from her example.

3- The vivid historical description of life in early America was enjoyable and interesting!

Sarah came from a wealthy and inflential colonial family, and Jonathan was an extremely smart and socially awkward Yale graduate when the two met. Hearing about young singles iceskating outings, Puritan furniture styles and church traditions, and family culture in the 1700’s added a layer of history to the story that I loved!

One thing the book could have added was more information about Jonathan’s vast and impactful ministry, so if you are not familiar with his part in The Great Awakening, it would be helpful to get some context before reading this book.

What are some of your favorite biographies?

Julie Terry

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