Book Review: Living Whole Without A Better Half

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 [1]. This is still a worthwhile purpose, but probably not the purpose the author originally intended.

[1] See, for example, my own wrestling with the subject:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Love & Marriage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Book Review: Living Whole Without A Better Half

  1. wendywidder says:

    Hey Nathan, thanks for your review & your thoughts. Just a comment about the characters I chose for the study – since you rightly noted that the obvious examples of singles in the Bible are omitted (i.e., Paul, Jesus, etc.) – Hebrews 11 was my home base, so it provided my characters (aside from Job, who’s a whole ‘nother matter). Also – your statement “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” is spot on. Exactly. I am definitely more interested in what the Bible has to say about following Christ than what it says explicitly about singleness (which is minimal). If we can get the former in perspective and keep it as a priority, the latter becomes secondary. Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to review it. 🙂
    P.S. If you are looking for a book on singles in the Bible, check out David Hoffeditz’s “They Were Single Too.”
    P.P.S. If you are looking for a book that considers the theology of singleness, check out my other title: “A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After.” I’ll even send you an autographed copy. 😉

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and reply to my review. It’s always nice when an author has an appreciation of the rather critical way I tend to look at a book. I will look for the book by Hoffedtiz that deals with singles in the Bible, and I would definitely like to read your other book on the theology of singleness. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Book Review: A Match Made In Heaven | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  4. I don’t really know that people should expect human beings (especially young men) to be joyful in their single state. The apostle Paul advised men to remain unmarried if they could possibly do so without sinning–because of the sign of the times–he described himself as having found contentment in whatever state he found himself (which must have included his abstinence.) But he also described the constant internal war between his physical and spiritual desires (Romans 7.) Some people are simply called to do a different work than others during their single state because they can focus more fully on it than they could otherwise. But the bottom line is that God created each gender with the need for the other; a yearning to cleave together as one. For some, though, that way of life is experienced as an “identical” (conceived of the same Seed, gestating in the same Womb to be born at the same time) in the Church.

  5. Yes, according to that timeless adage that “great minds think alike.” 🙂

  6. Pingback: Book Review: Play With Fire | Edge Induced Cohesion

  7. Pingback: Book Review: They Were Single Too | Edge Induced Cohesion

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