Book Review: The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40

The Wonder Years 40 Women over 40 The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength is a collection of essays compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields .

Many of the authors are well known (Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Madeleine L’Engle, Ann Voscamp, Brene´ Brown). A few have passed on. Some are bloggers. Most have published a book.

They come from a variety of faith communities. I wouldn’t agree with every theological point or endorse every person or ministry represented, but I appreciated the perspective of each writer on midlife and aging.

Some of the entries came from published books; others appear to be written for this collection.

The essays cover just about every topic one could think of in connection with aging as a Christian woman. Physical issues. Changes in marriage, new marriage, new singleness. New challenges. Attitude adjustments. The empty nest. Care-giving. Preparing for our inevitable end.

As I read the first entries, I found several instances of “doing new big things.” I appreciated the emphasis that life doesn’t end at 40—or 50 or 60. But I hoped all the essays weren’t going to be like this. I didn’t particularly want to learn to ride a horse, row a canoe for ten hours, climb a mountain, move to a different country, or start a major ministry any more at this stage of life than I did when I was thirty. Or twenty. Some of us like more sedate lifestyles. I looked back at the table of contents and saw that this beginning sections was appropriately labeled “Firsts.”

The next section is labeled “Lasts.” This stage of life brings some things to an end. Some are laid aside gratefully, other regretfully.

The last section’s title and theme is “Always”—things that ring true at any age but perhaps became more poignant or are brought more into focus the older we get.

To give you just a sampling, here are some of the quotes I highlighted:

But maybe all this is more than the universal human hunt for the fountain of youth and innocence. Maybe it’s something more modest, more possible. Maybe we older women just want to be seen again. Leslie Leyland Fields, Introduction

It takes courage to stop and take stock of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. It takes strength to keep our hearts open. It takes fearlessness to keep questing after the good, the beautiful, the true. We’ll do exactly that in these pages, knowing that no matter our age, it’s never too late to keep becoming the women God wants us to be. Leslie Leyland Fields, Introduction

I want to maintain the balance between foolish risk and boring safety. I dread growing stale, losing energy. I know my senses need awakening. Luci Shaw, “Rowing into the Wild”

At fifty-one, I was learning that maturity involves living with unmet needs and unanswered questions. I began to realize that in beauty or in tragedy, God alone is in control. He is the source of my real security. Sheila Wise Rowe, “Awakened to Adventure”

Unresolved regret is a leech that steals from our present in order to feed the pain of our past, hindering our future in the process. Michelle Van Loon, “The Gift of Regret”

As the Creator of years and time, he advises us to “number our days,” not to count down to retirement, but to “gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 12). Patricia Raybon, “Answer the Phone”

When we get old, in many situations we must either act foolishly or look foolish. It may be wise to walk more slowly, carry a cane, whatever else is needed. Even if it looks foolish to onlookers, to be prudent, we must change our ways to match our season. We needed grace to be diminished. Win Couchman, “The Grace to Be Diminished”

If you’ve read or listened to Elisabeth Elliot much, you’ve heard her talk about offering whatever happens to us up as an offering to God. Her entry here talks about the origin of that concept for her, something I had not heard before. I found that was because this entry was from the only book of hers that I had not read: A Path Through Loneliness.

Many of the entries are humorous, many are challenging. I found myself nodding along in several places, and tucking away thoughts for the future in others.

Despite my light-hearted (but true!) comment about not wanting to face certain kinds of challenges at this stage of life, I agree with Luci Shaw that I don’t want to become stale. I want to keep growing, learning, being useful.

I loved that the title proclaims this season a time of wonder. There’s still a lot of life left in us “women of a certain age,” a lot to learn, a lot to do. We become more settled in some areas, but we can always find new areas to serve and show love to others.

My blog friend Michele also reviewed this book here. I don’t remember for sure, but her post may have been what prompted me to put this book on my TBR list.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Grace and Truth, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging,
Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, InstaEncouragement, Worth Beyond Rubies,  Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)


12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40

  1. And now I want to re-read the book!
    Thanks for sharing the link to my review—and I agree with you on so many points here. In many ways, I am busier and less available for huge projects than I was when my kids were all home. Life is very full, but I don’t want it to become boring!

    • I should probably revisit this book in the future, too. I know what you mean about being more busy than I thought I would be at this stage–or maybe it’s just busy in different ways. But it does keep life interesting!

  2. This sounds interesting! I had to laugh at your paragraph about doing big new things. I can relate! I’ve read several “midlife” books and there always seems to be the chapter on a grand ‘second act’ where one starts a business, etc. In most instances I too have a “milder” type personality that doesn’t really go for that.
    I loved the quotes you chose, and one reminded me of this John Wesley one, which a friend has on their blog: “I am afraid of nothing more than of growing old too soon, of having my body worn out before my soul is past childhood. Would it not be terrible to have the wheels of life stand still, when we had scarce started for the goal; before the work of the day was half done, to have the night come, wherein no one can work? I shiver at the thought of losing my strength before I have found [it]; to have my senses fail ere I have a stock of rational pleasures, my blood cold ere my heart is warmed with virtue! Strange, to look back on a train of years that have passed, ‘as an arrow through the air,’ without leaving any mark behind them, without our being able to trace them in our improvement!”

  3. This is a book I must read. Thank you for your review. I am with you – I don’t want to begin any big new endeavors at this stage of my life, but I don’t want to stagnate either. I enjoy reading how other women deal with challenges to see if there are any strategies I can incorporate into my own life. I think (hope?) we have a lot of living left to do too!

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