Book Review: Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul

Finally.  A real book for real women. 


  For anyone who’s tired of the worn-out, anemic approach to femininity and what it means to be a Christian woman, Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul (Nelson Books, 2005) is a breath of fresh air.  John and Stasi Eldredge’s authentic, transparent writing style is literate, engaging, and lively, encouraging women to connect with their deepest desires:  to be romanced, to play a role in her own adventure and to display beauty. 

Captivating is an intelligent, eloquent articulation of what many Christian women have felt for a long time: a yearning to be understood, nurtured, and valued  beyond the “infamous icon” of the last 21 verses in the final chapter of Proverbs.

Drawing on popular films and songs as well as Scripture to illustrate their theme, the Eldredges warn that most women tend to become either controlling or needy. Godly women, in contrast, should see God as the ultimate lover, and look to Eve as our model. 

Oddly, some criticism has been levelled against this book as containing “poor theology” or an “inadequate view of God.”  Interestingly, this sneering cynicism seems to come most often from those who’ve completely overlooked the book’s subtitle.  (Captivating isn’t intended as–nor does it pretend or presume to be–a  theological treatise or a “Bible study. ” Those who miss this miss the point. )

For any woman willing and ready to shed the stifling, soul-stunting strait jacket of “How To” women’s ministry to recover her heart, the prize of the One who made her, this book is a great place to start.  Five stars.

For a related topic, click on:


_ministry.html  and


Update: 11/30/07

Not every book will speak to every reader, and Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul is no exception. 
Captivating probably won’t speak to readers who equate “biblical” with banal, myopic, strait-jacketed and rigid.  It won’t resonate with supercilious pseudo-scholars unable or unwilling to grasp basic elements of good writing or storytelling, such as the use of the inverted pyramid style or personal anecdotes to illustrate or amplify salient points.  It won’t speak to the One Size Fits All approach to “women’s ministries” or “godly Christian woman” that ostracizes, villifies and maligns any who dare “color outside the lines” or yearn for something deeper, richer, or closer to the heart of God. 
It probably won’t say much to defensive, sanctimonious, narrow-minded Torquemadas who perceive Their View on the topic as exclusively God-breathed and dub anything else as suspect and destined for the stake.  (These mentalities perhaps unwittingly personify some of the Eldredge’s secondary themes.)


In terms of criticism, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  Since this is my blog, I have my own and I disagree with much of the fire that Captivating has drawn.  Among the most ferocious, oddly enough, is Captivating’s use of personal anecdotes and movie themes or song lyrics. 

This criticism is easily deflected and deflated if one understands that Stasi Eldredge uses her own life experience to illustrate and expound upon the tri-fold theme of the book.  I’ve read the book thru twice, as has my husband and several friends, all from different denominational backgrounds.  We all see the same thing: no where does Stasi state or imply that her troubled past is “normative” for others.  Thus, this criticsm is both unfounded and silly.  It’s also a sterling example of how someone can read a book without “getting it.”  

Regarding the Eldredge use of movies, Captivating never elevates the message of any movies cited to the level of Holy Writ. The basic themes and titles, such as Nathaniel’s words to Cora in “The Last of the Mohicans” cited on p. 8, are clearly used as illustrations from a medium with which most readers are familiar and thereby most likely to connect.

Another criticism levelled against this book concerns the Eldredge’s use of the Song of Songs (Solomon).  Some have alleged that Captivating takes S of S “out of context,” insisting that it only and solely refers to Solomon and his Shulamite bride.  In truth, the traditional rabbinical view of the Song is that it depicts God’s love for Israel, his wife. God’s courtship of Israel from the time she left Egypt is a theme running through the Bible. Christian commentators have long interpreted the Song of Songs as a picture of the Church as the Bride of Christ. God loves His only Son and by the Holy Spirit He has called out and prepared for Jesus a beautiful, virgin bride. Captivating is well within the pale of biblical orthodoxy in its use of Song of Songs.  Those who maintain otherwise might profit from a refresher course in Poetic Literature 101.

Again, let me reiterate that Captivating won’t speak to everyone.   I accept that.  What I don’t accept is the type of response that one woman shared when informing me that she “doesn’t agree with the book’s premise.”  When I asked, “What is the book’s premise?” she couldn’t articulate a single point, and eventually admitted that she’d never made it past the first chapter!  (So much for an informed opinion!)

From this example and others, my point in posting this update is this:

I don’t think it’s fair that those who disagree with or misconstrue Captivating bash it on the basis of their inability or unwillingness to grasp basic journalism and literary technique or Captivating’s subtitle: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul.  Read the book for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  For those willing to honestly look for and listen to that still, small Voice with an open and contrite heart, you will surely find and hear Him within the pages of Captivating. 




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