The author grew up in the flagship Church of Christ college community, Harding University, in the heartland of the Protestant Restoration movement.
Wife Material tells the story of Elizabeth Campbell, raised in a similar place and time. Elizabeth’s parents are violinists. Her father seems gay. Their church disallows musical instruments and homosexuality. Lizzie succumbs to the twisted violence in her family and the pressure for early marriage at Waltham University, where suicides abound. Then, she escapes fundamentalism through a series of liberating sins.
Dr. Deborah L. Cox
is a licensed psychologist, writer, certified EMDR therapist, and artist at Beyond Studio, in historic downtown Springfield, Missouri. Deborah is certified in Tapping (EFT), trained in Reiki, and uses Performance EMDR methods to coach musicians, writers, and students.
What People Are Saying
Cocooned from feminism–remembrances of the familiar, or shock at the strange?
Some in the 70s missed ERA and the end of Vietnam. Among them was Elizabeth Campbell, the heroine of Wife Material. Cocooned from the larger world of feminism and anti-government rallies, Elizabeth was well-prepared for domestic rather than political action. Growing up in a small town, attending the church-related Waltham Academy and then the college, moving to Texas and through marriage, divorce and professional development, Elizabeth finds her way in life’s journey. Although drawn from one person’s experiences in the Church of Christ, Deborah Cox’s autobiographical fiction speaks to many who came of age in conservative communities and church life.
Readers of Wife Material will come alive with remembrances of the familiar–or with shock at the strange. Whichever it may be, their feelings should also include gratitude that Cox has rendered an account which needed to be told, with all its unsettling surprises about family, school and church; authority, marriage and independence; curiosity, wounds and caring. In short, Wife Material is about what it means to be human and living in the midst of challenging, overbearing, and sometimes abusive relationships. Cox tells the tale with neither anger nor shame—just poignant insights. Brava!
Etta M. Madden
In Wife Material, Dr. Deborah Cox explores the world of mainstream religious legalism and patriarchy. Although the setting of her story is not as extreme as that experienced by members of the Quiverfull movement (the teachings associated most readily with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar), narrator Elizabeth experiences the same push toward early marriage as the ultimate goal of a woman’s life. When she leaves her closed community and begins to experience life beyond its bubble, she struggles to find her voice and honor her authentic, God-given self. By interspersing early life events and Elizabeth’s experiences in her later life, Cox shows the impact of environment on impressionable children. Wife Material is a worthy read for anyone attempting to deal with controlling systems or voices from childhood. For those raised in a similar environment, many scenes will seem familiar. For those who were not, Wife Material will provide an excellent education into the world of legalistic fundamentalism and the slanted perspective that often accompanies its teachings.
I wanted to challenge myself to step away from my normal genres, and read something that would challenge my spiritual perspective, and give me insight into another point of view. I was right on the money with this one. As a Christian, I couldn’t help but oscillate between feelings of frustration and hopefulness as I delved into a different mindset. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read it, but I kept saying in my mind, “This isn’t Christianity. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go?” This legalism, and hypocrisy, and graceless environment. I wanted to impart my two cents at every twist to protect the protagonist. Wife Material was reminiscent of the the slow drip of frustration that was delivered by Catcher in The Rye, but with a beautifully descriptive cadence. I was, as a writer myself, almost jealous of how creatively Mrs. Cox painted visual imagery. It immerses you, and from reading it, I feel I have gained some insight as to how terribly religion can be presented to a young mind, and how that perspective will stick. On a personal note, as a Christian, a husband, and a father, this book is a good check on how we perceive and teach grace vs Pharasaic moralism. When asked about the mood of the book, I couldn’t decide between dark, hopeful, suspenseful, and thoughtful. This book is all four.
From one emotion to the next, Deborah Cox pens a raw, brave and startling story that captivates and compels the reader to contemplate their very own truth. Fasten your seat belt and prepare for a riveting read!
I was in the same Church- the Churches of Christ. I share some of the experiences of the main Lizzie.
The spiritual abuse and struggle is evident throughout the book. How she broke free from that and grew into a mature human being is amazing and true to human nature. Mistakes, flaws, sin, and redemption are part of the process of growth, wholeness and maturity.
In the end, we’re all humans, however flawed. But the better we come to see our own flaws, the better we can heal and grow. Deborah Cox knows this all too well, and Wife Material is the proof.
Great description of fundamentalism, patriarchy, flawed families, and coming into one’s own.
Deborah Cox is a talented writer gifted with the ability to accurately reflect the nuances of growing up in a fundamentalist world and trying to find one’s own way. Her insights into the psychological effects of indoctrination and flawed family dynamics are uncannily spot on. Deborah’s descriptions of Waltham Academy and Waltham University are evocative and oddly reminiscent while shedding light on the overt patriarchal conservatism of such an upbringing. One of the most rewarding aspects of “Wife Material” is watching Lizzie’s journey from young girl to bride to empowered woman. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about fundamental patriarchy or anyone breaking away from such an upbringing.
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