A well-written biography can instill lessons and inspires life. Reading biographies can therefore, be a worthwhile endeavor for any reader. Biographies not only reveal historical events, but they expose the character of humans and their adaptation to those historical events. From those words believers learn and are challenged about their own character. Wise counsel to any reader then is the suggestion to read good biographies.
Ray Rhodes Jr. offers a new addition to the world of biographies with his portrait of Susannah Spurgeon in Susie. While Charles Spurgeon was well-known during his life and beyond for his preaching and writing, behind him and just as influential was his wife, Susannah. Apart from the fact that she was married to Charles and suffered from some physical ailments, little has been revealed about her. Rhodes changes that in this amazing portrait.
The book is readable, not simply listing facts and dates, but instead, Rhodes traces her history with precision and while doing so reveals her character. He reaches into her own writings and of those who knew her to capture the depth of her heart and reveal her perseverance. At times Rhodes offers conjecture about unknown areas, such as what exactly Susannah Spurgeon’s physical ailments were that kept her homebound so frequently. But he never asserts it as fact and he focuses more on Susannah’s desire to continue serving the Lord through those setbacks.
Susie is not merely a book about Susannah Spurgeon, but the author brings in Charles Spurgeon as well, focusing on their relationship together. Unlike those around her, Susannah was less than impressed at her first introduction with Charles. Yet, here traces not merely a love story between the two, but a picture of a godly marriage focused on serving the Lord. It shows how Spurgeon encouraged the spiritual growth and spiritual service of his wife through her own writings, care for others at the Pastor’s College, and her most well-known endeavor of the pastor’s book fund. However, the author also captures Spurgeon’s care for her, moving alongside of her when she needed help and was worn down.
On the other side, Rhodes captures Susannah’s devotion to her husband, while coming to terms with the fame he already had before they were married. The book shows how she wrestled with their relationship while supporting him in the ministry God had created for Spurgeon. Rhodes calls on the Spurgeons’ children (through their writings) to reveal much about Susannah Spurgeon’s lifestyle and influence.
Certainly, neither was without fault, but the author paints them as the perfect husband, wife, and Christians. While not wanting to minimize who they were as a result of God’s work in their lives, neither do we want to create unrealistic expectations on pastor’s wives or on families. My one fear of this book is that it will create unrealistic expectations for husbands and wives, in which readers point to them as the model of who we need to be and lamenting anyone who falls short of that. Therefore, readers would do well to learn from their lifestyles and strive for godliness as exemplified by Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. But they must be cautious to recognize that perfection is not attainable until Christ’s return.
Susie is a tremendous book that not only memorializes the Spurgeon family, but it honors God. Ray Rhodes writes a book that shows how lives inclined towards the Lord can do much to advance God’s kingdom. As a result, it is a book that is worth reading.
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.