A few months ago I posted a meditation on Sue Monk Kidd’s resplendent first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, where I made the case for a revitalization of our images and experiences of God through a retrieval of the divine feminine: God as “Our Lady in Chains,” God as Shekinah, God as Wisdom-Sophia. In her book, also transformed into a wonderful film, Sue Monk Kidd weaves an unforgettable narrative of the divine in female form, more specifically, through the pluriform community of (black) women who surround the young (white) girl Lily with unexpected love, gifting her with a newfound sense of sacred identity and belonging.
A newfound sense of sacred identity and belonging: whether the critical issue at hand be racial and gender equity or rapidly accelerating environmental devastation and climate change, we are living through an era of dangerously impoverished imagination. More than ever we need new stories and images (and the retrieval of ancient ones) that are capable of renewing our fundamental sense of identity and belonging. Who am I? Who are we? To whom do we belong? How to re-imagine our relationship with the planet, our common home, the suffering Earth?
Sometimes the stories we need appear in grand fictional narratives driven by unforgettable characters–think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Treebeard leading the Last March of the Ents against the rapacious Saruman, who has savagely plundered the forest. And sometimes the stories we need are hidden more quietly in plain view, in the fabric of our own life’s journeys, or in the untold stories of people we already know–or thought we knew.
The beautiful new book, No One’s Easy Daughter: Our Journeys of Transformation, falls into the latter category. Because it springs from a collection of ordinary women’s lives hidden in plain view, the book might easily be overlooked. That would be a lamentable loss for hope and imagination (the two are so intimately linked!) in a world, and in a church, which so much needs witnesses to hope and imagination. No One’s Easy Daughter gives us a wondrously pluriform picture of women religious who have dared the journey of love, faith, and hope in communion with God and others. Their journeys witness to the joys and sufferings, the dreams and hopes, at the heart of the Gospel itself.
No One’s Easy Daughter is less a book to “read” than it is a kind of mosaic or communal icon with which to remember, to think, and to pray–and by the grace of God, to learn to imagine again. It has quietly kindled my reserves of hope.