Gail Foster Tasmania Tasmania
picture of the book
Book Reviews...
Book review in Hobart's newspaper, 'The Mercury', on May 1st 2011:

Eileen Smith writes:

Don't you love to see people who are comfortable with who they have grown to be? Gail's story is an inspiring one, giving hope to those who feel they've been dealt an unfair hand in life. A story of determination and faith, Gail’s remarkable strength to persevere, motivated me to move down my own path with more grace and dignity. She has taken the difficulties of her life and used them to fuel her wish for a happier and more fulfilling life. This book made me feel like I could accomplish anything. For most of us, good self-esteem and good self image drive us to do great things...make more money, create a home for our family, be the best kind of person we can be, and do right in the world. During the most challenging times of her life, which to most could be a very negative period, it was intriguing to read of her ability to keep a tight grasp on the gifts of lightness and humour during her darkest times. Her strength was sustained by close family ties and strong support from her friends, so that she rose above adversity to reach a place of contentment and peace in her life.

Through it all, she furthered her education and from that was able to maintain self-respect and survive financially. Although at times, it was necessary for her to 'grasp the nettle' she didn't give up, but displayed great perseverance and strength of character.

At her lowest ebb, Gail spent ‘six months in Wonderland’ – a watershed, where she was able to replenish her spirit and choose the direction of the next chapter of her life. In Wonderland, she was at ‘grass roots’ level, able to appreciate life’s basic simplicity, and await the next step in her journey.

There are many of life’s lessons in Gail’s book – the most notable I feel, is that change comes about only when we ourselves decide to change our circumstances, hard though it may be. Experiencing the depths, we must also anticipate the heights, even when it seems we can’t cope any longer. Faith in God and ourselves prevails, and Gail overcame her doubts and feelings of hopelessness, to reach a point of great contentment and personal achievement.

Six months in Wonderland is a story to give hope to women everywhere, a story of courage, and determination born of necessity. The quote from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” has never been more clearly illustrated than in Gail’s book:

'Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.'

M.E. Klitzke writes:

"I can heartily recommend this book - I could not put it down. It is extremely well written with great humour, honesty and self-disclosure. There were moments of great hilarity, tenderness, frustration, sadness and in the end love and fulfillment. Gail takes us by the hand and walks us through a life which I am sure many could relate to, with all the ups and downs, but written in such an engaging way it is far from an ordinary life. I believe it will touch all who read it in a very positive and uplifting way. Take a walk in her 'Wonderland' I can guarantee you will enjoy it."

Gail's friend Anthea Carins wrote of her in the foreward:

"If you have had, or are in, a relationship with someone who was raised in a narrow, exclusive and restrictive religion, then this book is for you.

Gail Foster has experienced the struggles that emerge from such circumstances. Those who have travelled a similar path will resonate with her pain and the difficulties and frustrations that compound over time. I have walked with Gail for over thirty-five years, and much of our experience is shared, giving us special understanding of each other and of this journey.

The script is written in early childhood and the damage seems irrevocable, frequently leading to complicating mental health problems and/or addictions.

Feelings of despair erode hopes of emotional intimacy leaving two people isolated and vulnerable, feeling they have ‘married the wrong person’. Invariably separation and divorce loom as only the options.

Although divorce solves some of the problems, unfortunately much of the damage is inherited by, and manifested in, the next generation.

This is a searingly honest account of Gail’s journey through such a wilderness. Gail could not have prepared herself for the perils she would encounter as she said ‘I do’ to a man she believed she was very much in love with – wished to spend her life with. The fundamental incompatibilities between two good people would take years to reach the surface.

She demonstrated tremendous courage to eventually leave that relationship, suffer condemnation from at least some for doing so, and embark on a new life with the hope of walking a different, more fulfilling path.

Can we simply walk away from our former choices? Does the past stay with us? Do we see the damage re-enacted in the next generation? And if you have faith, how do you reconcile this with your own situation?

You will find hope and encouragement from Gail’s journey particularly if you identify with any of these themes. Gail is now happily married to Peter and finally realising some of the much longed for compatibility and intimacy that had evaded her.

Healing has begun . . ."

The following review of "Six Months in Wonderland" was commissioned by 40 Degrees South for the March 2011 issue of their magazine, and written by Gail Foster:

Hats were a necessary accessory for the well brought up young lady of the 1960s. They were worn, with 'pure white' gloves and socks, shiny, black patent leather shoes and a miniature version of a grown-up handbag, when "going to town" or "attending divine service".

"Nanna also occasionally took me to Sunday morning service or 'Holy Communion'. I added a saintly demeanour to my 'Sunday best' and tried not to fidget on the hard wooden pews. Though the sermon was deadly dull, the array of feathered and felted feminine millinery provided distraction, the strains of the organ, comfort and the stained glass windows, beams of optimism."

In my teenage years I ditched the "deadly dullness" of Anglicanism for the seemingly, less formal Brethren. Females, of any age did not enter "the sanctuary" without a "head covering".

"My friend, Cheryl encouraged me to attend the Thursday evening prayer meeting. This was for the seriously spiritual. The assemblage was 'led' by a brother from the front. Women were to be suitably hatted. Endeavouring a deep, introspective connection to the divine while giving diligent regard to brotherly supplicants and decorous comportment were the intercessory essentials.

'Let us all pray', said the brother.

I offered my heartfelt and novice petition. Cheryl giggled.

'Women don't pray!' she enlightened me after the meeting.

Subsequent meetings included the 'sisters'."

The hat, for the heavenly minded, could with a little imagination be adopted for earthly use. The shy, coquettish glance beneath pastel brim and artful tresses formed part of the 1970s mating ritual of the deviously devout.

It was not until my wedding, performed within the rites of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, complete with King James English and no music, that I realised the significance of the head covering.

"In vain, I had tried to argue for a text that did not extol the virtues of a submissive wife and for a vow that did not include the word obedience."

Three months after the wedding and pregnant, the fog lifted. I wondered why men were so distracted by a women's hair or incensed by a female opinion, if they were so naturally god-like? I decided that my children's intelligence and creativity would not be stunted by years of boring catechism classes.

So began twenty years of searching for a church where my husband and I (with our three children) could attend with reasonable compatibility. My husband was a good man. He didn't drink, swear, beat his wife or squander his money. We shared the values of marital faithfulness, family life, hard work and faith in God.

For the men of the church, life was good. They had pay cheques and the respect and of their wives for their daily work, the knowledge that even though they were hardly home, they were still the "head of the house" and enjoyed enshrined superiority in "God's house" on "the Sabbath".

For me, who had been brought up to value and foster my femininity, creativity and intelligence, and who saw the world as an amazing place full of wonder and opportunities for learning, who loved beautiful music and inspiring literature, it was a constant battle to legitimise my existence. It was the emotional equivalent of being shackled in a prison cell with light from a key-hole, giving glimpses of hope.

A number of other experiences, for example, giving my first talk or sermon in front of a congregation and having half the congregation pointedly ignoring me, for no other reason than that I was female, illustrated at best, a peculiar male pattern blindness, varying degrees of ego-centricity and at worst, psychopathy.

In my forties, I tolerated my last "submissive wife" spiel.

"On this occasion the woman did not 'keep silence'. I stood, indignant, angry. I acquainted 'the speaker' with a number of his specious arguments and my feelings about them.

'Be quiet!' he thundered, his glasses now lopsided in red, perspiry, vexation.

I strode to the door. The slam reverberated through the stunned silence."

Soon after this episode, after much misery and great soul-searching, I also stopped tolerating my marriage.

"The day he informed me that he was returning to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was the beginning of the end. I could no longer face tedious King James bible readings rendering our meals indigestible, mournful Sabbaths, ecclesiastical lectures, the embarrassed silences of my son, the exasperated hysterics of my daughter, the dull, dark, damp, dripping stranglehold of fundamentalism."

My 50th birthday party, celebrated upstairs in a pub with my family, friends and orchestral colleagues illustrated the consequent divergence of our life paths. My husband was at home, "observing the Sabbath" while I was celebrating in the upper room with publicans and sinners!

Soon after this I met Peter, my new husband to be. We have been happily married for over 6 years. We celebrated with great joy in a vineyard. A string quartet, a harmonica solo, a guitar and violin duet and piano and saxophone were interspersed with happy speeches. I wore a white strapless, floaty creation, my hair gathered up in curls and unencumbered by a covering of any description. I wrote and delivered my own speech. We had an ecstatically wonderful day.

Peter and I are both Christians. Our growth as individuals and as marriage partners and our ability to give to our family and community is strengthened by our belief in God, in purpose and the healing power of love. We meet with a group of believers who value the contributions of all, and where scholarship, questioning and creativity of thought, life and art are encouraged.

My journey through various religious denominations has been both life enhancing and traumatic. I have made wonderful friends and been bullied through religious dogma. Unintelligent dogma imprisons all, but women much more so as they are limited by men as well as doctrine.

I have discovered the difference between a denomination and a sect or a cult, the distinction of the spiritual and the abusive. The need for unquestioning submission to a church leader, the replacement of rules for individual thinking, the use of religious language which confound rather than clarifies understanding are all signs of spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse or bullying engenders fear, not freedom.


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