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Women like us


for me in terms of adjusting to UK life. After I noticed the lilac bush arching over my front gate, I realised there are far more lilacs in Cambridge than at home! And it made me realise beauty is everywhere, if you just have the God-given eyes to see it. Amy: Having eyes to see and the


passion to wonder at the beauty around us – yes. As we become present to the situation we’re in, whether the leafy Home Counties or a big-city urban priority area or the windswept northern coast, we glimpse God’s fingerprints dotted around. Even living in a country as steeped in beauty and history as the UK, we can get stuck emotionally over what we lack – a feeling I had to fight against as I adjusted to a new culture. Only in writing my book, which looks things British


at all through the year,


have I realised how much energy I’ve invested in creating celebrations, often linked to high days and holidays. Initially I was trying to recreate what was going on Stateside, wanting to mark such


occasions as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. Now I can see the rich traditions that we’ve developed according to both of our cultures, which our children couldn’t imagine life without, whether the summertime barbecue or the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day.


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What’s a VW? Modern life today rails against us being planted geographically or present to others emotionally; Katie and I have addressed these feelings of dislocation and discontentment in our writing. For instance, in her first novel in the Tales from Goswell series, The Vicar’s Wife, she aptly describes the shock at moving country and


cultures, the inner


battles against resentment and bitterness, and how to process pain while also learning, over time, to embrace a new life: Katie: The Vicar’s Wife was inspired by our unlikely move from Manhattan to the wild reaches of West Cumbria, but the circumstances were very different


to that in my novel. My husband and I were both excited, and I didn’t struggle in the same way the protagonist Jane Hatton does – although


I’ve had to reassure a few parishioners of this! Of course, even when you look forward


to living in a new place, you have to deal with the culture shock and the pain of transitioning, making new friends, and so forth. We’ve moved several times – and are about to move again – so for better or worse my family and I have become adept at this. It’s never easy, but the lovely people of St Bees made us feel welcome from the start. Originally I was going to write a


purely historical novel – the story and characters from Alice James’s part of The Vicar’s Wife – and then I decided to add a contemporary thread. Being a vicar’s wife in a small village, especially back then, is quite a public role and I wanted to explore the idea of someone taking it on who wasn’t used to that kind of lifestyle. Amy: The vicar’s wife – ah, the vicar’s


wife. As I say in my chapter, I wasn’t aware of the expectations some congregations place on their ministers’ wives, which doesn’t often correlate to a female minister’s husband. At the celebration for my husband’s ordination, when I’d been in the country six months, I started to understand that this role might entail more than I realised. As a gift of love to him, I had organised a


large after-church buffet, the serving tables heaving with the dishes I had prepared. Surveying them, the churchwarden said, “What a good vicar’s wife you’ll make!” Her words surprised me, and I bristled slightly at the label, for I hadn’t cooked and baked out of a sense of duty. But over the years of being a VW, I’ve learned that as with any role we undertake, it’s best to be ourselves


womanalive October 2015 15





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