Book review: Susie

Confession: I’m not generally a biography lover. But I want to be. And when I saw that Moody Press was offering Ray Rhodes’ new biography of Susannah Spurgeon for their blogger review program, I knew I wanted to read it. It bears a photo of a Victorian lady — the eponymous Susannah, of course — on its front jacket, and I’ve a weakness for Victorians. It’s a handsome hardback edition, and I’ve a weakness for hardbacks. I didn’t know anything about Ray Rhodes, Jr., but Al Mohler wrote the forward for this book, and I consider Mohler trustworthy. And I knew enough about Charles Haddon Spurgeon — “Prince of Preachers” — to know that learning about his wife would probably be worthwhile.

I learned more about Charles through this book, and learned that his wife must have been a remarkable woman. Her husband maintained a rigorous preaching, teaching, and writing schedule, while also dealing with depression and physical illness for most of their married life. Rhodes details how Susannah, herself an invalid and in pain much of the time, supported her husband’s work, discipled their two boys — who both grew up to be pastors themselves — and founded and maintained a large book ministry to needy pastors.

I was impressed by Susannah’s dedication to her husband’s ministry and her early resolve to “never, never hinder him by trying to put [herself] first in his heart” (61). In addition to Susie’s devotion to her husband, Rhodes underscores both Susie’s love of the gospel and her perseverance in good works, supporting his claims with liberal references to first-hand accounts from Susie, Charles, and their sons and acquaintances.

I found myself inclined to be more critical of the Spurgeons than Rhodes is in his book: where he quotes a letter from Charles to Susie to show the depth of their marital devotion, I was appalled to find that Charles was away from his wife and writing letters to her at a time when she was so ill as to be in great uncertainty of survival (136). Nonetheless, the sum effect of the book was to leave me inspired follow Susie in serving the Lord, love my husband, and disciple my sons more joyfully and wholeheartedly.

My favorite parts of this book were the beginning chapters about Susie’s conversion and her early romance with Charles. The latter half of the book dragged on a bit for me, but I confess to very distracted reading and a general preference for other sorts of prose. Even so, I found the whole book well worth the time I invested in the reading, and suspect that — especially if you’ve a penchant for biographies in general or for C. H. Spurgeon in particular — you’d find it well worth your time, too. It’s a fascinating glimpse of two godly people serving the Lord — their historical situation was far different from our own, but their struggles and the faithful God who helped them to finish in victory are the same we have today.

©2018 by Stacy Crouch

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