Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Afternoon of Life: Book Review

If you're a woman forty years of age or older, you are well aware that there are a plethora of books about menopause and all of the surrounding physical and emotional issues.  Elyse Fitzpatrick's book The Afternoon of Life:  Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife addresses woman on a level deeper than biology, a spiritual level.

The book begins with Fitzpatrick highlighting the reality that change is inevitable, and that the changes we experience as women at this time of life are only the beginning of a bigger change:  leaving this world for the next.  No, that's not a morbid thing.  It's a reality.  Fitzpatrick reminds us that we are always in a phase that is taking us toward the redemption from our mortal bodies, and this time of life is no exception.  She reminds us that the changes here are a welcome reminder of what is to come:
God has been kind to us by force-feeding us with change:  change of home, change of job, change of family situation.  He's been kind in that he's reminding us that this really isn't our home, that we're supposed to be looking for a different one. (p. 39)
Following this, the next chapter encourages afternoon women to be women of valor.  Using Proverbs 31 (Now, don't groan!  It's a wonderful exposition) Fitzpatrick defines valiant:
The Hebrew word translated "valiant" and "valiantly" hayil, is primarily a military term meaning "strength, efficiency, wealth, army." (p. 31)
She goes on to show what a valiant woman is like.  The valiant woman is not about physical battles, but about standing strong in the Lord.  A valiant woman trusts in the Lord, not in herself, and she is a servant:
The valiant woman testifies that the purpose of my life is not me or personal gain but fruitful service to those whom the Lord has given me to steward. (p. 44)
With this foundation laid, Fitzpatrick discusses issues that are a concern for older women:
  • Being alone with husbands once again
  • Releasing our children as they leave home
  • Having married children and grandchildren
  • The challenges of living with adult children who have returned home
  • Coping with aging and dying parents
  • Physical challenges
  • Areas of service
As a woman who is in the midst of my afternoon and facing some of these challenges, I found the most helpful chapter was the discussion about aging parents.  There are some very practical things mentioned that we may have not thought about.  Sometimes, we have a warning that our parents are ill, but those kinds of situations rarely happen according to our schedule. The stress of an ill or dying parent is compounded when we aren't prepared, and don't know what their wishes are or were.  This was an excellent reminder for me, because my parents and my in-laws are still doing well and are healthy, and this is the time to discuss such things with them.  Here are some of the things we ought to be thinking ahead about with regard to our parents:
  • Is there a will?  Who is the executor?  Where is the will kept?
  • Is there an insurance policy?  With whom?  Who is the beneficiary?
  • Who is your parents' physician?  What medications are they on?
  • Have you discussed long-term care with your parents and siblings?  What are your parents' preferences? (p. 158)
This is just a sample of the questions.  If you want to know more, you'll have to read the book.

I really enjoyed this book, but I did notice that most of it was directed to women who are married or are mothers.  I think it would be valuable to consider what kinds of challenges women face as they age if they are single through being widowed, divorced, or having never married.  A woman may find herself dealing with all of the issues discussed in the book, and on top of it all, she may be doing it alone.  I know a woman at my weekly bible study who is retired and has never married.  She faces issues such as loneliness, health concerns, maintaining her home and vehicle, and caring for an aging parent on her own.  I think it's difficult at times.  I think it would be interesting to see how a single woman my age, with no children, would receive Fitzpatrick's book.

With that aside, I heartily recommend this book; and don't wait until you are over 40 to read it.  I heard a lot about some of the physical difficulties of this age when I was younger, but I was not entirely prepared for how acute they could be, and how that could affect how I handled other situations. Above all, the reminder that this world is not our home is one that is needed for all women, not just those of us in the afternoon.


  1. I need to read this book soon. Thanks for this review, Kim.

    Blessings to you all!

  2. Thank you for this review. I think this is a book I need to read. I will be seeing 40 very, very soon and have an "almost adult" son who no longer lives at home. And, sadly, I'm currently dealing with a likely dying parent.

  3. Kim, what age is considered "the afternoon" age, exactly? 40? Gasp!

    1. Aimee, Fitzpatrick considers 31-45 technicall "midday" and then "afternoon" follows. I don't know if those are official designations or not :)

  4. I'm definitely going to recommend this one for our book table. Thanks so much for the review!

  5. I have this book and do need to read it all the way through. I also wish she had addressed single/divorced women. I'm 54, divorced, with a 19 yr. old daughter who is getting married on October 27th, and raising a 14 yr. old daughter as well. Add to that a full time job, and wacky hormones, and I feel like a total mess at times. The posts on God's immutability have been a huge encouragement to me. Diane W.