Book Review: Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

From the book shelf: “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd

Recommended to me by a fellow parishioner, this spiritual memoir recounts the inward journey of the writer, a fairly normal church-going traditional wife and mother, best known here for her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid’s Chair than her many inspirational writings.

Waking up to the patriarchal inflexibilities of her American Baptist Church, she sets herself free to unravel her habits of faith and journey towards wholeness through finding the Sacred Feminine. It’s not all an easy read. You can’t skip bits. The pathway is challenging and unfolds in discomforting ways from the Awakening, through Initiation, Grounding and Empowerment.

Some of her rituals are to me, bizarre. But I understand her need to bury herself in monastic contemplation before casting off the layered restrictions on her true self. The process is long, deep, tumultuous. Yet I defy women to read this and come away without better understanding of their own lives as Monk Kidd draws from the writings of many theologians, from ancient Greek and other myths, mystics and prophets. After the stripping away, the reader feels her relief that the central truth of Christ’s
love and our calling to truth and justice remain intact.

In our Anglican New Zealand lives, we may begin from a less gender- restricted world-view than Monk Kidd’s church life, but all women will find value in reading this account, reflecting on their own situations, finding creative ways to live out faith calling us to pick up our lyre and sing.

Reviewed by Chris Carrell