Related By Chance, Family By Choice: Transforming Mother-In-Law & Daughter-In-Law Relationships, by Deb DeArmond
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest book review.]
This is one of the several books that I have read  that is not written for me at all and that would not appear to be immediately relevant given the prolonged absence of romantic relationships from my life, and the fact is that anatomically speaking I will never be a woman-in-law as is written about in the pages of this practical and personal book. That does not mean, however, that this book is not without value or relevance, even if I am clearly not the ideal reader or reviewer of this book. As someone who is generally sympathetic to the issues of women despite my issues with them (and the absence of them) in my life, and from my observations of the interactions of the women around me, I found the book to be something that is likely to appeal to Christian women who take their relationships with daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws seriously.
This book manages to straddle a line between practical tips on how women (and, make no mistake, this book is written to women) can improve their relationships with their woman-in-law (the abbreviations MIL, DIL, and WIL appear often in this book) as well as a principled and godly approach to the love rather than the legalism that is to rest at the base of such relationships. The book contains short chapters that are thoughtful and well-sprinkled with insights from the author’s life, the author’s lovely daughters-in-law, the Bible, and a survey undertaken by the author to add a mathematical basis to the discussion. Starting with an examination of law and love (which is a bit unfair to law in stating that law was the basis of God’s relationship with those in ancient Israel, when God’s relationships have always been by grace), then examining the case of Ruth and Naomi (who appear as models of a godly relationship between women-in-laws at the end of every chapter after the second one), before looking at such issues as leaving and cleaving, how mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws contribute to bad relationships, trust, communication, the problem of gossip, how guys contribute to difficulties, digging out of one’s difficulties, setting boundaries, and starting out marriage strong. These are well done, full of checklists to monitor progress as well as full of loving and gracious commentary, fulfilling those who prefer a relationally or statistically-based approach to problem solving. Each chapter ends with a thoughtful and reflective prayer.
Even as a guy reading this book, I found a great deal to appreciate. As a potential MIM (man-in-the-middle), I found it interesting how the book (written by a mother-in-law who gets on very well with her three daughters-in-law, and who even manages to have her daughters-in-law contribute a chapter of the book looking at their point of view) manages to point out the delicate tensions and balances in family relationships and the often unspoken and unappreciated bargains made and standards set in relationships. If this book simply encourages women to treat each other with love, to show respect to the common son/husband in their lives, and to focus on gracious and open communication rather than anger or hurt silence, it will do a lot of good. There are a lot of people who could use this book as a personal wake up call and encouragement to help improve their relationships in this area. This is not to say that the book is perfect. It makes a couple of brief errors, one in a common but mistaken view of the lack of grace in the Mosaic covenant, and the other at the end of chapter 12 when the book mistakenly says that Ruth married her father-in-law Elimelek (she actually married Mahlon, one of Elimelek’s sons). These errors do not detract from the general excellence of the book, which should find a wide and appreciative audience of mostly Christian women.
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