Described by Laurie Hall in the foreword as a "giant hug for women who've had their lives shattered by their spouse's infidelity," WHEN HE LEAVES: Help and Hope for Hurting Wives is by turns empowering, empathetic and energizing for anyone who has been dealt "the divorce card."
"You are not alone," writes Kari West and Noelle Quinn. "You belong to a sacred sisterhood, the wounded, the rejected, the betrayed." The authors, both victimized by their ex-husbands' infidelity, are "frustrated by the trend of wives dumped in midlife and children abandoned, and by the response of the church to a crisis that occurs no less frequently within evangelicalism than outside it." They also write for women who have left a husband who "left long before in his mind, while he expected her to pray and stay."
Both authors fought to keep their marriages together without success. But both were able to glue the pieces of their lives back together and move on to healing and wholeness. "I found out when you can't go back, you go forward," writes West.
The authors found that divorced women face:
Yet, you will survive, the authors encourage. They urge readers to feel their pain in order to heal; to be willing to grieve the loss of the relationship and dreams. Then, women must embrace the truth about their marriage, and their lives. Finally, they believe, women can move forward to new possibilities and a different future than was planned.
Both West and Quinn offer heartbreaking personal glimpses into their lives spent married to men who were cheating on them. Amazingly, the authors' tone, which easily could be bitter or nasty, remains mostly even-handed (although excruciatingly honest when detailing the cruelty that can happen between spouses). Both authors are vulnerable to the point that Quinn even admits contemplating buying a gun when her hatred against her ex peaked! Prayers of anger and pain are included, penned to God, just as David lamented to the Lord in his Psalms. I want things back the way they were… How am I to endure, O Lord? How am I to get through this?... What did we do to deserve this? Many divorced women will recognize their own questions here.
While raw emotions such as anger and hatred are acknowledged and validated, readers are encouraged to channel them into positive steps forward. Interactive sections allow for readers to journal their own feelings and ideas.
Throughout the book, the authors offer practical ideas for recovery, ranging from simple things (Rise early and walk before breakfast, write a letter to yourself about your dreams) to some that may seem a bit off-beat (pierce your belly button). But then, off-beat is sometimes the point. Divorced women need to find a new identity apart from their one as wife, and to expand their horizons. West and Quinn offer a thoughtful chapter on navigating the twists and turns of single-parenting. There's also a helpful list of practical "housecleaning" ideas to let go of your bitterness by letting go or rearranging physical possessions ("Get rid of the clothes you wore with him" or "Take down everything hanging on the walls, freshen the paint, and re-hang pictures differently.")
Occasionally, the authors' rah-rah spirit ("P.S. You are going to make it!") feels over the top, although some will appreciate their unbridled enthusiasm. Others may find some of the practical ideas for moving forward a bit simplistic ("…write your name on a seashell or a small rock…place it on your nightstand…remember that persistence pays!"). However, the value in even the simplest suggestions offered is that they are easily do-able at a time when even ordinary tasks seem difficult.
An unexpected bonus is the collection of outstanding motivational quotes sprinkled throughout the book, drawn from a diverse cast of characters that includes everyone from G.K. Chesterton to Diane Ackerman; Anne Morrow Lindbergh to Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. Although this is a wonderful book for divorced Christian women, it also is highly recommended that pastors, family members, and those in the church read it, and books like it, to gain deeper understanding in how to minister to those in this situation.