This month the RevGals are discussing A Vision of Light by Judith Merkel Riley. The book reminds me very strongly of The Book of Margery Kempe but a lot more interesting and engaging. The Book of Margery Kempe was written circa 1430 by a middle class English woman in English -- the first known autobiography written in English. Margery was the child of a wealthy English merchant and was a mystic who encountered visions of Christ after giving birth to her first child and falling ill. She went on to have 14 children with her husband and was known for her skills in brewing. Sound familiar?
Margaret's second marriage was to a strong and wealthy merchant; she learned her brewing skills from her stepmother, Anne; she didn't give birth to multiple children, she midwifed them. Yet there are echoes of Margery's story in Margaret's.
I also found echos of history in the way that Margaret's father married the Widow Anne and Margaret's ease of shifting "allegiance" from her natural mother to Mother Anne. As few as 200 years ago, when life expectancies were much shorter, diary records, wills and other ephemera testify to such shifts of allegiance. It makes me reflect of the nature of "Motherhood" -- what is it that makes a mother, but her love and care for the child? The authenticity of the love that Mother Anne and Mother Hilde, the midwife each have for Margaret cannot be denied. Perhaps the idea of parenthood and family we have today is more rigid and does not leave for the flexibility that is inherent in true love. (And by extension, I can see applications here for the household of God....)
I really enjoyed these books (and yes, I've read BOTH of the sequels already! They are addictive!) In fact, these books rekindled my interest in Margery of Kempe as well as the Letters of Egeria. These texts though, are not for the faint of heart. Margery's depth of devotion and turn of phrase have caused for many scholars to regard her as a madwoman. Yet they were appropriate for the time -- and worth a gander.
(Note: I've the world's flakiest internet connection -- I can POST but I can't COMMENT (or email either reliably). If anyone can, could you please link this posting to the RevGal's discussion? Thanks.)