Mending Your Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree, by Elizabeth Oates
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
It greatly annoys me when a book like this explicitly mentions its audience and makes it plain that the primary audience is made up of married women and secondarily that of single or divorced women. There are a great many books that are written by women, for women, and about women , but there are few books that appear so ignorant about their potential audience as this one is. The author of this book seems to think that only women wonder about the effects of dysfunctional family backgrounds including divorce, drug/alcohol abuse, and various sorts of child abuse on adults. This is, as one might imagine, a deeply mistaken assumption. One wonders who is to blame in this; was the author simply unable to imagine that plenty of men come from dysfunctional family backgrounds and want to do things better, or was it a matter of the misguided editing and marketing of this book that prompted the author to ignore about half of her potential audience? Either way, this book has a massive blind spot in it.
In terms of its contents, much of this book has a workbook approach encouraging the reader to fill in the blanks and reflect upon God’s graciousness as well as what has to be overcome in life. Aside from this, the book is divided into three parts. The first part of the book looks at the past, discussing how people can find their significance in Christ and be securely rooted, how to prune excess baggage, how one creates space to grieve, how one feeds faith and learns the skills to cope with life, and how to discover God’s role as the master gardener. In the second part, dealing with the present, the author discusses the importance of boundaries, compares contracts and covenants, shows how people can balance roles and responsibilities, how people can perfect the art of communication and learn conflict management, discusses how people can cultivate physical intimacy in their marriages, how people can connect through the Spirit, and how to live out forgiveness. The third and shortest section deals with the future, where the author encourages women on helping their husbands understand them and raising the next generation. After this comes an epilogue and five appendices that offer more chances to fill out information about one’s family background and what one seeks to overcome.
In reading this book it is clear that not all readers will likely appreciate this book in the same way. I found, for example, that the author’s approach that problems in adulthood are related to childhood and that treating sexuality as something to be experimented with was immensely harmful were both accurate statements but ones that cut against a great deal of contemporary thought. Public schools, for example, are at present a great laboratory for experimentation of particularly harmful kinds and a great many people would rather ignore or try to suppress the past rather than deal openly and honestly with it. Likewise, a great many people who struggle with broken branches, as this author phrases it, do not have an easy time finding people to talk to about their issues because there is a tendency for us to feel overwhelmed or burdened by the problems of others, since ours are often so difficult for us to bear. Ultimately, this book will likely be a comfort to many (mostly) female readers, but it is a shame to think that this book could have been even better had it been written with more thought of the wide expanse of the issue of dysfunctional families and its repercussions.
 See, for example: