Monday, February 3, 2014

The Vicar's Wife by Katharine Swartz

Drastic times require drastic measures. Jane's daughter is caught drinking underage.  That set in motion a plan that affects everyone in the family.  Jane's husband decides he's had enough of the big apple and wants the family to move to England where he is originally from.

That would certainly separate their daughter from unwanted influences! Jane just sort of floats along without really letting reality sink in. Refusing to go look at houses, her husband buys one for them--reporting in glowing terms about it's "character" (code word for fixer-upper).

The idyllic image of England somehow doesn't match reality. The trade from a high end apartment in New York to a drafty, run-down vicarage is quite distressing for Jane. They don't even have a Starbucks!

So begins a new and stormy chapter in Jane's life. Always a city girl, rural England is quite an adjustment. But she gave up more than city life; she gave up a rewarding--albeit demanding--position helping women.

Gone are the glitzy fundraising dinners, always networking to develop a strong donor base. Also gone are the days of a franetic schedule that left little time to spend with her children.  With time now on her hands, Jane is faced with how little she knows about her children. They'd barely had time to talk in New York; now when Jane has time, some of her children are less than willing to make the effort.

The book is all from Jane's perspective. From her vantage point, it's Jane against the world. She's angry with her husband for moving her to the middle of nowhere, distant from her children because she's rarely spent time with them and at odds with her mother-in-law whom she felt never liked her.

Even her house is against her--peeling paint and disrepair in every room. Although Jane came across as a spoiled socialite, she does have a pretty tall order to fill with getting their family settled in a less than posh home. Part of me wondered why her husband didn't have any time off when they moved to help out with some of the grunt work in making their house habitable?  Does he not know how to paint or clean?  How about time to instruct her on the use of the ancient stove in the home? Who wouldn't feel overwhelmed in a new town, house and even country!

While Jane was taking out shelves in a pantry to paint, she uncovered a slip of paper that looked like a grocery list. Written in the beautiful script of days gone by and the mention of guests for dinner, Jane wonders about the author of the list.

She visits the church to find out the names of prior vicars. And this bit of mystery suddenly provides Jane with the distraction she needs to escape her self-pity. The reader is then introduced to the list writer--a previous vicar's wife, Alice, and the remainder of the book is a parallel story of Alice's story and Jane's who experienced similar struggles adjusting to life at the vicarage, although decades apart.

I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed that a book titled, "The Vicar's Wife" had very little to do with church or her Christian faith. Neither Alice, nor Jane, seemed to see the the Lord as a source of strength. Alice in her shyness remained somewhat aloof from her husband's parish and Jane in her ignorance, didn't really include church as part of her family's life.  I would have assumed that with a church in your backyard, just plain curiosity would have had led her there before the very end of the book.

In spite of not having a lot of spiritual depth to the story, I did enjoy the parallel stories and the emotional development that happened in both Alice's and Jane's lives, albeit years apart. It demonstrates how universal our humans struggles really are.

Read an excerpt and then visit Kregel Publications to purchase a copy of The Vicar's Wife . The book is also available at one of the following retailers:

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Vicar's Wife from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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