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Unexpected Abundance
The Fruitful Lives of Women without Children
PAPERBACK; Published: 8/22/2023
ISBN: 978-0-8028-8234-9
Price: $ 16.99
176 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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Meet 25 women who generated life without giving birth. 
In many Christian communities today, women are expected to have children—to “be fruitful and multiply.” To be childless is to be less of a woman, less of a Christian, or so it can feel. Elizabeth Felicetti is deeply familiar with this pressure as an Episcopal priest who never had the children she imagined would be part of her life. But in the landscape of her childhood in Arizona Felicetti found fresh eyes. If she’s “barren,” so is the desert—and if you look closely, the desert teems with unexpected life. This is also true of women throughout history. Biblical women like Mary Magdalene, medieval mystics like Julian of Norwich, and modern activists like Rosa Parks did not have children, yet their lives bore fruit in their communities and in the church at large.  
In reflecting on her own experience alongside those of these remarkable women, Felicetti deepens our understanding of the many ways to be fruitful. Women without children—by choice or chance—who have felt frustrated or voiceless in the church will find solidarity and inspiration in the pages of Unexpected Abundance.

Table of Contents

1. The Desert
2. Barren Old Testament Matriarchs
3. Barren New Testament Christians
4. Barren Medieval Mystics and Writers
5. Two English Religious Reformers
6. Childless Christian Composers
7. Childless Christian Activists
8. Childless Medical Professionals
9. Childless Christian Clergy
10. Back to the Desert
Recommended Reading

“As a woman without children myself, I treasure the cloud of witnesses Felicetti has gathered together in this bold new book to attest to the abundant possibilities of a life aside from motherhood. What wonderful company we find ourselves in! Mary Magdalene, Clare of Assisi, Elizabeth I, Pauli Murray, Dolly Parton, and more. Unexpected Abundance will be a faithful and fierce companion for women who have chosen or are discerning this path.” 
—Heidi Haverkamp, Episcopal priest and author of Everyday Connections: Reflections and Practices for Year B 
“Full of surprising blueprints both personal and historical, this book deftly flips the cultural script that conflates childlessness with something sad, bad, or less than and reminds us that flourishing has never followed a single plot. Even what we call barren bears life.”  
—Erin S. Lane, author of Someone Other Than a Mother 
“Quietly radical, subversively reverent, Elizabeth Felicetti’s Unexpected Abundance challenges culturally entrenched narratives of fertility, creativity, and fulfillment. In an engaging and humorous voice, Felicetti asks us to rethink common assumptions about childlessness. Through the metaphor of the desert—often stereotyped as dry and arid, but in reality a landscape of lush abundance—Felicetti celebrates the fruits of barrenness and reframes what it means to leave behind a rich and meaningful legacy.” 
—Nancy McCabe, author of Can This Marriage Be Saved? A Memoir 
“A long overdue book, joyously written, Elizabeth Felicetti’s Unexpected Abundance deftly examines the lives of historical women whose ‘barrenness’ offers opportunity for the development and outpouring of other spiritual gifts. Among these women are Queen Esther, Mary Magdalene, Julian of Norwich, but also Queen Elizabeth I, Dolly Parton, and Rosa Parks. Beginning with a brilliantly conceived analysis of the ‘barren ground’ of her childhood, Felicetti demonstrates how the Arizona desert actually yielded: grapefruit, pomegranate, olives. Barrenness becomes a foundation for flowering. Unexpected Abundance offers powerful, and often witty, testimony to all the ways we have limited our understanding of women’s prophetic and creative power. Here is Elizabeth Felicetti offering up the best possible corrective.” 
—Elaine Neil Orr, author of Swimming between Worlds 
Unexpected Abundance is an important counternarrative to the Christian privileging of mothers. Elizabeth Felicetti, an Episcopal priest, boldly names and negates the assumption that women need to bear children in order to live generative lives. Unexpected Abundance lays out example after example of women who were fruitful and faithful without becoming mothers. Felicetti’s biblical research and engaging storytelling inspire and inform. This book will keep you turning pages and, as I did, highlighting passages to revisit time and time again.” 
—Teri Ott, editor and publisher, The Presbyterian Outlook
“Can ‘barren’ women—those not bearing children—be well described as ‘fruitful’? The author’s spirited response is: ‘Let me count the ways!’ Elizabeth Felicetti takes readers on a vivid tour, alternating between her own experience and accounts of women with different vocational visions from many times and places. Not only can women be fruitful though childless; they can be as fruitful as they are just because they are childless. This energetic interplay of candid memoir, targeted history, biblical analysis, and theological imagination is a celebration of the deep truth that meaningful womanhood cannot be restricted to biological motherhood.” 
—David Schlafer, author of Your Way with God's Word: Discovering Your Distinctive Preaching Voice 
The Christian Century
“This collection of essays . . . is full of possibilities for a beautiful, faithful life aside from motherhood.”