Living Whole Without A Better Half: Biblical Truth for the Single Life, by Wendy Widder
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
This book is a rare example of a book that I am the target demographic of, although in this case it is one demographic that I have never wanted any part of. As the author makes clear repeatedly in this book, this is true of her as well as many other likely readers of this book. It is a tricky matter to write a book devoted to an audience that does not want to be in the audience at all, one of the reasons why there is a distinct lack of cohesion among singles as a population, because it is about as easy to feel joyous about being alone for most people (myself included) as it would be to feel joyous about leprosy, for example. So, on the one hand, the author has aimed at a large market, but it takes an approach that is not necessarily the easiest one. The author should be praised for taking an honest approach and not pandering, but all the same, this is one case in life where as an audience I want to be pandered to, in all honesty.
What is not in this book is any mention of many of the most obvious singles of the Bible, like Boaz (probably because his marriage to Ruth is a very familiar source of wish fulfillment for single men and women alike), or Jesus Christ. The book does talk about Paul as a single man, but it does not go into detail about 1 Corinthians 7 and the argument for singlehood from that passage. The book does focus on biblical examples: Abraham, Job, Joseph, Jacob, Moses, Cain, Abel, Enoch, Amram and Jochebed (Moses’ parents), and these lessons provide very good Christian advice about perseverance. pain, rejection, rebellion, worship, purpose, and distractions (via the negative examples of Saul, Esau, and Solomon). It should be noted, though, that while the lessons are applied to singles, and her own life and that of friends is used sympathetically, the main lessons are about singles as being Christians rather than as being singles. This advice is therefore useful to people who are not single, as it tends to show singles in a way that integrates them with the Church rather than separating them, as is so often the case.
That said, much of what is said directly to and about singles is not pleasant. There is honest discussion of the envy and bitterness that tends to make singles groups unpleasant places to be (which is not entirely surprising given that groups that have a common and unwanted identity do not have a great deal of unit cohesion). Perhaps the most pleasant observation of the book comes not from the Bible but from the author’s experience as a schoolteacher, where she commented that those who make matching tests (and what is romance and our efforts at it but a matching test) tend to put extra options that are good answers to questions that no one is asking. No one wants to be that unpaired answer, though, and though the author does provide a thoughtful examination of the pain of rejection and loneliness from a biblical perspective, ultimately this book is not particularly comforting because it falls under the rubric of pre-celibacy counseling rather than encouragement.
It is to the credit of the author that she admits that she herself would have written the book differently now than she did originally. But she has written the book she has written, and it deserves to be read and critiqued by singles, especially in groups (with people who are not single). This book points out what is often the case, that marriages can be unhappy because people look to others to fulfill needs that can only be filled by God, but there are many reasons why people flee singlehood whenever possible, even at desperate costs, and this book does not ultimately provide compelling reasons why Christians should be joyful to be single. We were created with the longing for intimacy and love, and this book only deals tangentially with these concerns, and in a cursory and largely unsatisfactory way. Rather than being a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend and wholeheartedly enjoy, it is rather a book that deserves critique and criticism and to be a sword to sharpen our own wrestling with our unwanted state . This is still a worthwhile purpose, but probably not the purpose the author originally intended.
 See, for example, my own wrestling with the subject: