Real Women, Real Wisdom: A Journey into the Feminine Soul is a collection of 17 essays by women "of a certain age," all reflecting on what they have learned from the stories they have lived. Maureen Hovenkotter, author of 42 States of Grace: A Woman’s Journey (reviewed here), edited the collection and contributed the final essay.
Each piece focuses on, or is inspired by, a "transformative" event in the author's life – death in the family, illness, divorce, or job loss, for example. One essay specifically examines suffering as part of our lives, and another the idea that things don't turn out as we expect, but the themes of suffering and unfulfilled expectations run throughout all the stories.
What makes these accounts of suffering and loss emotionally piercing instead of maudlin is that every writer concentrates on how her experience brought grace into her life, and how she used to the experience to move closer to God or grow spiritually. Many of the women are in a Catholic writers' group together, so they bring a Christian perspective, but none of the essays are dogmatic. One of the authors is a practicing Buddhist, another a self-described seeker, and all share an acceptance of traveling varied spiritual paths.
The authors aren't celebrities, but don't be put off by the somewhat amateurish nature of their publication. Most are professional writers; all are gifted storytellers. The collection will teach and inspire as the stories linger. It is the kind of book that many readers will turn to again and again as they face the same sorts of life challenges as the authors.
This book is at the top of my gift list for women over 40 with a spiritual bent, which, when I think about it, is a LOT of women I know.