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Woman and her lot

20 March 2012

Rachel Harden finds shared experience

A Spacious Place: Contemplating the second half of life
Alie Stibbe

BRF £6.99 (978-1-84101-605-4)
Church Times Bookshop £6.30

ALIE STIBBE’s A Spacious Place: Contemplating the second half of life is a book for women (this is not to say men may not learn a thing or two . . .), and a follow-up to her previous BRF publication, Barefoot in the Kitchen (2004) — a personal­ised search for God while bringing up young children.

As a vicarage parent who also brought up four children in quick succession, I studiously avoided ex­actly this sort of publication; so it was with more than a note of cynicism that I picked up A Spacious Place.

The strength of this book is in its honesty. At various points, the author shares her huge disappoint­ment at failing to make it in the academic world after completing her Ph.D. She now works as a time­tabling officer at a local FE college and, despite a range of justifications (near to home, work-life balance, avoids the commute), she still wrestles with her lot. Add to this that, now that she is 50, her children come and go, her husband has left his large church to set up a solo venture (and parish life itself, she admits, was not easy, taking its toll on the whole family), the waistline has thickened, and there are no diocesan surveyors to call when the house floods . . . and readers will get the picture.

The book, billed as a “half-glass-full” look at the “the second half of life”, focuses on what the author calls “God-centred remembering”, with many — possibly too many — biblical texts. The chapters look back and forward, and deal with the present; the section on the “panini generation” — those sandwiched (or rather toasted) between ageing parents and half-grown-up children — will resonate with many.

Each chapter ends with practical suggestions, a prayer, and reflections from a range of sources, including this from author Allison Pearson: “If you’re a woman there’s always a good reason to put yourself last. . . I sometimes feel sacrifice is written into our genes. It sits right next to the Guilt Chromosone we inherited from our mothers.”

Familiar? If so, you may find the book worth a read.

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