“After all, there’s still me.” You Go Girl. {Book Club}

One of the phrases I loved from An Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim was “I see you being happy.” Well, as we come to the end of The Pastor’s Wife you won’t hear anyone saying that, I’m afraid.

Today we finish up with Part 3 and, hold on to your horses, a lot happens in this section.

Ingeborg, who I think never had pictured herself as a mom since she hadn’t been given the freedom to dream in her growing up years, is in a steep learning curve when it comes to mothering. I felt such compassion for her as she seemed to be doing it mostly on her own. “Herr Dremmel looked at his watch and said perhaps he would have time to hold her hand next week.”

I know marriages look different depending on their era and culture, but by this section I’m pretty sure there’s more going on (or not) going on with Robert that has nothing to do with time or country. Ingeborg proved to be tenacious as she tried to get her needs met by seeking out other mothers and trying to gain wisdom and advice.

(It was around here we first learn of Edward Ingram, who is a bit taken with himself.)

Questions for you:

  • How was your transition to motherhood?
  • Who or what helped you?
  • Did you have to seek out help or did it come looking for you?
  • When Ingeborg realized Robertlet looked like her mother-in-law it was understandably disconcerting. What physical or character attributes do you see in your children or children in your larger family that are similar to other relatives? (Niece #1 is a replica for my mom. In ways that are, I admit, freaky. Niece #2 is so similar to my dad, it’s just jolting. And #3 has been said to be similar to me, but she’s stubborn and dramatic, so I don’t see it. Wink!)

And then we get the jolting news that “in seven years Ingeborg had six children.” The first two lived, the next two died of mumps and the last two were still born. After pages being given to conversations with Robert about whether or not to have more children and when, it was jarring. But I imagine that’s how Ingeborg felt. “It was the absence of pauses that beat her.” I bet!

Robert’s beliefs that “wives, children, and parishes are adornments, obligations, and means of livelihood” saddened me. I kept hoping something would get through to him. “I’m going to work harder than ever.” Said Ingeborg when she returned from Zapport.

  • How common are children’s deaths where you live?
  • How do you know when you need to work harder? Or when you do not need to work harder? You need to be secure in who you are, not what you do?
  • Have you experienced a time when “the absence of pauses” have beat you?
  • Slowly Ingeborg gave up reading and using her mind. There is a normal give and take with different seasons of life, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on here.

When Ingeborg’s children were sent off to school — she’s been in the country how long? And didn’t see that one coming? — I wondered what direction the book was going to take since there was still a good chunk. At that point we got into the theme of loneliness and how to stay engaged in an isolated environment.

  • In the comments a few weeks ago VJ asked: where /how do we find meaningful and appropriate fellowship with people when its not readily available in our context? Great question. How do you? What have you tried that works? Or didn’t work?
  • How do you think loneliness might look different for a single person than a married on the field?
  • In light of Ingeborg, I was impressed with her tenacity to keep trying in life. “After all, there’s still me.” And after  year of reading the journals and books she’d ordered, she noticed “cheerfulness kept creeping in.” I love that phrase. Where have you noticed cheerfulness creep in?

And then Edward Ingram re-enters the scene. Edward was taken with how unselfconscious Ingeborg was and how willing she was to speak frankly. Remind you of the tourist trip she took with Robert? Ingeborg seems so committed to her marriage it never entered her mind something else might be going on. Can you picture those teas with Robert and Edward?!

As seems to be my catch phrase, “this is running long.” In the comments share what you thought of the ending and the interactions with Edward. And really, anything else the stood out to you.

I can’t say this was a “happy book.” But I can say, I’m glad we read it together and I’ve found myself thinking of the themes more than I had expected. Thanks for reading with me!

See you in the comments,

Amy

P.S. Next week I’ll introduce the spring book on Expectations and we’ll have books to give away.

And P.P.S. Connection Group sign-up opens tomorrow! Mark your calendars 🙂

Photo Source : Unsplash

19 Comments

  1. Kay Bruner February 23, 2015

    “Herr Dremmel looked at his watch and said perhaps he would have time to hold her hand next week.”  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  I can SO relate to Ingeborg:  the way she was set up by her family of origin to accept almost nothing in her marriage relationship, all of it cloaked in the holiness of men in ministry with Very Important Things To Do.  This is why I keep saying that pornography saved my marriage!  God uses the strangest things… so grateful.

    1. Elizabeth February 24, 2015

      Very true. Kay. 🙁 I think there’s a lot of brokenness in the Christian community that’s “cloaked in the holiness of men in ministry with Very Important Things To Do.” Ouch. But true.

      1. Amy Young February 24, 2015

        Here here’s to fostering a small, yet significant, change — a change for health for both our boys and our girls and to the messages we send them :)!

    2. Esteci February 24, 2015

      Kay,

      I gobbled up your book in a late-int0-the-night reading feast. Happy to hear of the redemption that’s come to your marriage.

  2. Elizabeth February 24, 2015

    I am SO behind on this book! I still intend to finish it. I had a bunch of writing due and a bunch of extra social commitments the last couple weeks, so I haven’t had time. Thankfully I’ve already read the next book club selection, so I’ll have time to catch up soon 🙂

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2015

      Elizabeth, whenever you read the book, your insights are welcome :).

      1. Elizabeth February 26, 2015

        Aw thanks, Amy. 🙂 I’m only about halfway through right now, and the thing that is standing out to me is still how little Robert cares for Ingeborg. Also I really feel for her living cross-culturally and wishing he would at the very least explain a couple cultural things to her while he is eating or shaving or something. It wouldn’t be hard for him to do that, but he refuses (JERK!). She is right that she needs guidance, as do we all. I’m blessed to be in a very gracious and hospitable culture where any attempts to speak the language/form relationships are applauded and appreciated. It does not seem to be that way in this Prussian village. She is all on her own. The people don’t even give allowances for her being English and not German; they just assume she should be like them, and that she will automatically be like them without assistance, and all they heap on her is judgment. Seems to me so far, anyway. And again, she wouldn’t have to make so many missteps if her husband would only help her. But he doesn’t care.

        The one part I really liked was how much solace she found in nature, even going so far as to say she felt all the love and glory of God while among those trees. I guess that’s one of her “sacred pathways” (LOVE sacred pathways btw). I really felt like I got to know her in that section. (And poor Ingeborg, wanting to inhale the scents of nature on the way back from the Baron’s, and Robert getting in the way!)

        I really feel for her because she wants so much to care for Robert. She gives him her heart, and so wants to please him with a child, thinking and hoping that will draw them together. Makes me hurt, her offering herself and receiving nothing in return, her offering not even accepted by the intended recipient. And I can tell from some of the other comments that things are going to get worse from here on out.

        So for now, since I haven’t made it any further, I will stop 🙂

  3. Pam G February 24, 2015

    Its the absence of pauses that is beating me with this book! Everything in me is wanting to slow down….to savor E. von Arnin’s words….to ponder the implications of her witty social commentary.

    One of the thgs that struck me is how Ingeborg begins so many sentences with “But…”  She gathers up SOME spine and then gets swayed to set her personal concerns/needs aside by her people pleasing habits…and pure exhaustion at having to work so hard to be heard.

    At  the end of chapter 12, she finally persists and gets Dremmel to hear her. “I’m done,” she says…and Dremmel takes this as  personal affront on his manhood, rather than hearing the cry of his wife’s dying soul – and and hving compassion for her tired body.

    I think this is the turning point of the book.  It is at this point that I started silently cheering Ingeborg on.  And it as this point that her story caused me some very productive reflection on my own people pleasing habits and how I too frequently, in the past, have abdicated…er, um…submitted / yielded / surrendered my will to others who, unfortunately, were more focused on caring for themselves than on caring for me.

    I don’t mean to be playing the martyr here OR to advocte for  self-centered indulgence.  My point is to recognize Igeborg’s slow realiztion that if she is to be heard….if she is to be cared for, then it is up to her. She needs to 1-recognize how she is feeling, 2-understand that those feelings are telling her somethg important, 3-be honest with herself and others about the impact of life events on herself and, 4-recognize she is NOT a victim of her circumstances….she can take positive action (s) ..she needn’t be passive if those who are SUPPOSED to care for her don’t do so.

    Gosh. I could go on and on….so many themes that are relevant to today! This book is rich.

     

     

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2015

      Pam, I like the way you pointed out a turning point. I, too, found myself cheering for Ingeborg. AND as much as I wanted Robert to move towards her, as you pointed out, there comes a point where if others won’t change, you keep praying for them. But, I like your 4 point steps. Feel free to go on 🙂

    2. Jenny February 25, 2015

      ”  “I’m done,” she says…and Dremmel takes this as  personal affront on his manhood, rather than hearing the cry of his wife’s dying soul – and and hving compassion for her tired body.”

      Pam G, this is so insightful.  Sometimes our needs are interpreted by others as their deficiencies or an accusation against them.  I’m muddling through trying to understand how to be truthful with myself about my needs and own them without blaming others.  But honestly I do find myself tempted to revert to the lie of my needs not mattering if someone tries to talk me out of it (by being offended by my needs or outright).

      So I started cheering for Ingeborg here too!!  And if things didn’t change with her husband, for her to find a path of peace and truth.

    3. Christy J February 28, 2015

      I was very struck by the point where she said “I’m done” as well. I agree with your thoughts on needing to take care of our needs and take positive action. This has been challenging for me in a situation at work recently. Several colleagues and I were in a difficult situation and we all seemed to be just giving in and accepting it, but we were all miserable. We needed to recognize the problems it was causing for us (and others) and start taking some positive action, but none of us was standing up and saying that it needed to change because we didn’t want to rock the boat or hurt anyone’s feelings. We are now in the process of (HARD) change on the matter, but it will have long term positive effects on many lives. I was encouraged by Ingeborg’s growth in finally being able to stand up for herself. How difficult this can be! But so worth it in the end to affirm your own value and the importance of asserting that even when others won’t.

  4. Esteci February 24, 2015

    I am curious what you all thought of the ending. Did you feel that Ingeborg was ultimately self-effacing and dutiful, or was she liberated when she chose not to continue her confession and swept the note away?  Perhaps we could assume that Robert would have never really heard her or taken notice of the note anyway. The last line is haunting: Robert had already forgotten Ingeborg.  (I grieved over the ending for days. There are so many real Ingeborgs in the world – treasures who are not treasured.)

    Another theme I found in the book relates to ministry vision. Ingeborg desired to and even tried to bond with the local women, but found that their lives were wrapped up in survival and that their pragmatism didn’t leave space for conversation, let alone friendship. I live in an urban context where people work long hours and women have many obligations inside and outside the home. Sometimes the visions we bring with us to the field– of tea and chats and getting on with the neighbors– are not realized, or at least look different than we anticipated. Perhaps Ingeborg’s vision of visiting people in the village was a bit paternalistic? Personally, I continue to learn about adjusting  expectations– along with continuing to press in and initiate.

    1. Amy Young February 24, 2015

      Esteci … hmmm. Good question. I think initially she was so exhausted from her trip and horrified that she had so misread Edward’s intentions and so disoriented that Robert hadn’t read her letter THAT she’s just plumb confused. And we as the reader may feel the same. I know I do. I could talk myself into either stance. I hope that with the passing of time, she’s liberated. I think that might be E von A’s intent as it seems that was her personal experience.

      And I LOVE the insight on ministry and some settings we find ourselves in. Dare I say, nearly all of them? Even in “very exciting” locations, life has ebbs and flows. I don’t want to dominate the discussion so will wait for others to chime in 🙂

    2. Brittany February 26, 2015

      I grieved over the ending too.  As I was reading about what transpired between her and Ingram and then her desperate desire to get away, I was so hopeful that Robert had been desperate to get her back (that’s the hopeless romantic in me).  That maybe, the thought of her going to another man would be enough to knock some sense into him, to see her as the treasure she was!  I at least wanted to see SOME kind of emotion when she returned.  How my heart was broken for her.  But I am so glad she went back to him.  Ingram didn’t love her in the least.  He loved himself (wholly and completely) and how she made him feel.  He disgusted me.  I think Robert at least loved her to some extent, he just loved other things more.  The whole thing was just so sad to me, and you are right, there are many women in the world in her similar situation, and that is as heartbreaking as anything.

      And I, too, related with the desire to reach out and connect with local women, but find myself unsuccessful as the women are so wrapped up in their responsibilities/survival that they can’t just sit and chat over a cup of coffee.

  5. Jenny February 25, 2015

    The ending, the ending, the ending! Esteci, it is haunting me too.  My heart just broke as she longs for truth and depth of relationship absent with her distracted husband.  Yet as she comes to the place of wanting to return and have her life as it was (and i’m with you in hoping it was in liberation not martyrdom!), his distractedness gives her what she wants.

    Can there be aspects of relationships that are deeply and consistently hurtful that end up serving some good purpose?  this sounds like a runaway freight train for so many Christians I’ve known who excuse behavior.

     

     

    1. Brittany February 26, 2015

      Jenny, what a thought provoking question, and such a hard one to answer.  I believe that God will use every situation for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28), and that means even hurtful relationships.  Yet there are so many different complexities for each individual situation that beyond that, I don’t feel I can offer any other blanket statements in this regard.

  6. Phyllis February 27, 2015

    I liked the ending. Partly because (this comes with a huge disclaimer: my husband is not selfish like Robert!!!) it’s exactly how something like this would take place in our marriage. I can’t imagine running off with an artist, but I could come home after anything at all and say, “I just did the most awful thing in the whole world. I want to confess.” And my husband would answer, “Oh? Tell me about it later. I’m off to put the kids to bed now.” And that would be the end of it. Also, while she was gone, Ingeborg thought about Robert all the time. She wanted to send him postcards, she wanted to be with him. I think she came to a better understanding of how she loved him and where her place was. Before Ingram arrived she was doing well with “improving her mind” and living her life. I like to think that she could slip back into that and live happily on, with an even better understanding of all of it.

     

    There was also the part where she was walking through town and the village, a complete mess, and everyone shrugged it off as “Engländerin.” I was sad that her children were included in that, but the whole scene was SO familiar. People will let foreigners get away with anything at all, just because they’re foreigners. I guess it can be quite convenient, like in this story, but it can be annoying, too. (“No, I did not do that because I’m ‘Engländerin.’ I did it deliberately!”)

  7. Bayta March 8, 2015

    Oh the ending!  It’s still haunting me. To be fair, he had probably forgotten her the minute he decided to no longer think of Ingeborg as his wife. But to have the book end on a phrase like that.  Wow.

    Seriously though – can anyone possibly be quite as naive as Ingeborg when she goess off with Ingram?  Surely not!

    Can’t say I like much about Ingram, but the way he describes a town as “a place where people rub themselves alive against each other” made me laugh and also struck a chord.  It’s the way you are again and again confronted with all manner of people very different from yourself that makes city life so fascinating (and tiring…).  Different parts of me come alive in the (figuratively) “rubbing against each other” that I might never know about if I just stayed in my comfortable and familar circles.

    Oh, and he does speak for all of us who don’t like mornings when he says “Nothing but a rather silent reasonableness go well with coffee and with rolls”.  I would love for that to be an official rule at every conference I go to! 🙂

     

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