Susie Shock. The Homesteading wife’s Christian Devotional (and favorite recipes), finding Biblical Truths on the Farm. Oursimplefarm.com, 2014.
Susie contacted me on my Facebook page and asked me to do an honest review of her new book. Doing book reviews for online friends, is difficult to say the least. You need to give an honest review of the work without offending the author and destroying a fragile, baby-fresh friendship. So I approach this task with trepidation and caution, knowing that what I write may be misconstrued or misunderstood. Susie Shock and I are from different cultures and each of us brings our own cultural lens to read through. And while we are both homesteaders and both Christians, we look at our faith and our homesteads with different worldviews. Susie Shock is an amazing woman — a warrior, and a saint. She has been though some hard times and she has come through them with strength, and fortitude and this brief devotional is born of that.
So right off the bat, let me say that I do not like devotionals. To me, they are like fast food burgers and fries, instead of home cooking. In a devotional, you get someone else’s scripture verse and their grinding of the grains of truth and baking of the bread, before you eat it. I avoid the “Our Daily Bread” devotionals that our church pushes on unsuspecting families. I can’t believe that this kind of daily spiritual food can be healthy. And sometimes the writer omits the sweetness, the spices, and the salt that make the bitter herbs and grains palatable. So I come to this book with some prejudice against fast-food spiritual diets.
This book is written for the Christian woman who is already homesteading. It contains 15 pictures with short accompanying scripture verses and a theme that uses the homestead-homeschooling lifestyle as an illustration. The overall tone of the book is the “let a (wo)man examine herself,” tenor. And so we have an open window to see the self-examination that Susie does in the course of her homestead lifestyle. She does warn the reader in the preface that she is going to reveal her sins. “I have exposed some of my sinful thoughts and actions with you and how God’s word has helped me overcome the mess.” (p.6) This kind of revealing by a stranger is a little discomforting and leaves one feeling a bit like you do when you witness a parent spanking their child in public.
The book begins with the theme of “joy” and Susie shares her personal story of losing not just one, but two babies, both premature and still born. This was a defining moment for Susie and her family and this grief returns in subsequent chapters to illustrate other points. The chapter is a paradox where trials ultimately lead to joy, as God works his will in our lives. The joy is a future promise, not necessarily a present reality. “Trials will happen. Expect it. Homesteaders (sic) be ready. Prepare your hearts and minds to except (sic) these challenges for they are allowed to happen by our Heavenly Father.” (p. 10) This was a staggering beginning to the book and sets the tone for the rest of the devotional.
There is a bit too much confession and public repentance in the book to make it encouraging for the reader. Susie is much harder on herself than God is. And the reader is left with a sense of inadequacy and a lack of hope, that shouldn’t be part of walking “humbly with your God.”
The husband in Susie’s homestead dream seems aloof and absent instead of being a fellow labourer with her. She speaks of him as the person that she submits to and his wishes trump her own priorities, basic needs, and hope. The homestead is not a fulfillment of Susie’s dream-lifestyle, but rather her lot in life. Her homestead is amazing, from a man’s perspective, and would appeal to any man who dreams of self-reliance. There is a big barn, acreage, and a working tractor. But it lacks one essential feature that any mother with a large family needs – a second bathroom. Susie doesn’t mention a secondary outhouse. While Susie is exercising her submissive attitude to find contentment – the glaring lack of this essential feature reveals more about Mr. Shock than about Susie. Just imagine this home during flu-season or even just on Sunday morning, getting ready for church. Truly, anyone who can be content and silent in this circumstance is a saint.
Each chapter ends with a prayer drawn by inspiration from the theme of the chapter, in tune with the devotional genre. And then Susie shares a recipe with us, also inspired fairly loosely by the chapter theme. For instance, in the chapter entitled “You are not unworthy,” that focuses on comparing ourselves to the standards of others, she gives us her recipe for Elderberry syrup, an immune booster. In the chapter on “grace” she offers a recipe for hand sanitizer. There is obvious irony and humour in her choice of recipe to enhance the devotional entry.
There are 15 chapters but not quite 15 recipes. None of the recipes are in the table of contents. The table of contents is not linked and the book is not indexed. So if on reading through the book, you find a recipe that you’d like to try, you’ll need to print it out and save it, or you’ll need to go through the book again, page by page, to find it. This is the reason I gave the book 4 stars out of 5. Every eBook needs a linked table of contents, and there is no reason to omit that feature when it is built into most word processing programs. But in a recipe book, the lack of a linked table of contents, severely limits the usefulness of the book.
While the book would benefit from the services of a professional proof-reader, and editor, that isn’t reason enough to overlook this book, written from the perspective of a fellow homesteader. Like so much of homesteading, this first book project by Susie is a learning experience, and I trust we can expect more valuable encouragement coming from her soon. She has the life experiences of a seasoned warrior to share with other homesteaders.
I received a review copy of this e-Book in exchange for my honest review.
For a chance to win a copy of this book, along with other exciting homestead books, and some special prizes, check out the giveaway.