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Desperate Pastor's Wives by Kolbaba & Scanell

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The Advocate

Desperate Pastors' Wives

by Ginger Kolbab & Christy Scanell

Reviewed by Heather R. Hunt

"...a fun book with a serious message for every member of every church congregation."

You've heard of desperate housewives? Now it's time to meet some "Desperate Pastors' Wives." Authors Ginger Kolbaba and Christy Scannell introduce us to four women from different backgrounds and religious traditions, who nevertheless all share - with varying degrees of acceptance - the unofficial, unpaid title of "Pastor's Wife."

Indeed, as this book reveals, accepting one's position as a pastor's wife is more demanding than almost any other profession a husband might choose. After all, hospitals who hire doctors don't expect their spouses to assist them in surgeries. Law firms who offer partnerships don't expect the new partner's spouse to become a volunteer paralegal. School districts who hire principals don't expect spouses to become unpaid school secretaries.

Why is it, then, that many churches who hire pastors assume their wives will run the women's ministries program, for example? Or organize the nursery? Or teach Sunday School? Play the piano for services? Organize potluck suppers? Offer counseling services? You get the picture. By exploring the stories of these four women whose husbands decide to become pastors, the authors not only unveil the uniqueness of each of the women, but also reveal the many ways there are to be a pastor's wife.

This role can vary from being as involved as a co-pastor up to - or in this case, down to - being a spouse with her own, separate career. The desperation for pastors' wives arises when congregations - and the pastors themselves - refuse to articulate their oftentimes very specific expectations regarding the spouse's role, but yet don't hesitate to let it be known when she falls short. In "Desperate Pastors' Wives" Jennifer, Felicia, Lisa, and Mimi each experience desperate moments on their journeys toward defining the nebulous nature of their positions in their husband's careers and their church congregations.

Felicia, for example, is an LA lawyer who agrees to relocate to Ohio when her husband changes careers to become a pastor. When she resumes her high-powered career, he is upset that she doesn't get more involved in church activities. But she finds a way to serve God through her secular profession. The other three ladies have their own crosses to bear, including the inability to get through to a husband who becomes consumed with his new senior pastor position to the point of neglecting his wife and family, the inability to have a baby and the no-no for a pastor's wife crisis of faith this causes, as well as the inability to say "no" for the perfectionist who is overwhelmed by the demands of church, community, and family.

For the most part, the nonfiction background of Kolbaba and Scannell does not affect their storytelling abilities. The one area where the didactic nature of nonfiction (such as one would find in "Marriage Partnership" magazine, which Kolbaba edits) slips in is the prologue. These five pages set up exactly what the women are desperate for in a nice, neat four-point outline format that reads like a magazine article. The novel would better have started at Lulu's Cafe "in medias res," to borrow a screenwriter's term for starting the action "in the middle of things," with the ladies already meeting for their bi-weekly survival lunches 40 miles away from their respective churches. Savvy readers will have no problem figuring out why these wives are desperate.

Despite its title, this book is not for pastors wives only. I call on every church librarian to add "Desperate Pastors' Wives" to your church collection. I recommend that every member of pastoral search committees be given a copy. I advise all married pastors - or those planning to marry someday - to read it. "Desperate Pastors' Wives" is a fun book with a serious message for every member of every church congregation.

Heather R. HuntHeather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.