I always like a family story, especially if it has a good mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. My favorite woman in the Bible is Naomi. She is the ultimate mother-in-law role model. Ruth’s promise to her – “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.“ – indicates a rather staggering level of commitment. That is love.
When I read Heather Day Gilbert’s Miranda Warning, I found a new heroine in Nikki Jo Spencer, the mother-in-law of the main character. She’s amazing. I want to BE Nikki Jo. She gets even better in Trial by Twelve! So when it was time to write about Mothers Day, I thought of Heather, and she kindly agreed to share her thoughts about mothers-in-law . Thanks, Heather!
Happy Mothers Day… Celebrating Good Mothers-in-Law
By Heather Day Gilbert
Yes, you read that title right. Despite popular opinion, some mothers-in-law are indeed good.
We’ve all heard the mother-in-law jokes that sometimes seem eerily accurate. The controlling MIL. The imperious MIL. The _________ MIL (add your own adjective).
But I also know that good mothers-in-law exist, because I HAVE one. And I constantly ask myself how I can be a good mother-in-law someday (yes, I think about things like this and I actually keep a list of things I want to do as a MIL and grandma, although given my lack of organizational skills, I might not stumble across that list before I’m dead).
As an author, it makes sense that I write both healthy and strained mother-in-law relationships. I thought about doing a rundown of all the MILs I’ve written (Thjodhild and Runa in God’s Daughter and Forest Child), Nikki Jo in Miranda Warning and Trial by Twelve, and Esther Sue McClure in Out of Circulation and the upcoming Undercut, but I decided to focus on Nikki Jo Spencer, because so far, she’s my favorite.
If you’ve read my books, you know I have no “perfect” characters. Each of my characters struggle with real-life issues, and mother-in-law Nikki Jo Spencer in A Murder in the Mountains series is no different. She has her foibles—she’s a bit of a gossip and she can be nosy—but she’s also solid gold when it comes to backing up her daughter-in-law Tess, no questions asked. She’s a superior cook and one of the wealthiest women in the small town of Buckneck, West Virginia, but you’d never know it by the way she treats everyone.
But I think the thing about Nikki Jo I’d like to emulate is this: she respects Tess and she loves her like her own.
That might look like bringing Tess a meal when she’s wiped out. That might look like letting Tess (a relentless sleuth) stay with her when a serial killer has discovered where she lives. Obviously the danger level is more dramatic in a mystery series than in real life, but I do think there’s something admirable about Nikki Jo and Tess’ relationship.
Nikki Jo’s personality isn’t the same as Tess’, which I think is often the case with MIL/DIL relationships. Nikki Jo is chipper and peppy. Tess is a realist and a risk-taker. But they have things they can learn from each other. Tess knows she carries the Spencer name now, and that means something special to her. She loves the family God allowed her to marry into.
I’m not saying MIL/DIL relationships are easy. I’m not saying they’re all ABLE to be as good as Nikki Jo and Tess Spencer’s. Sometimes boundaries have to be set, to maintain your own sanity (whether you’re a MIL or DIL). Not everyone is a Ruth and Naomi. And let’s face it—sometimes love looks like telling the truth in love so the air can be cleared.
But if you happen to have a loving mother-in-law like Tess Spencer does, be sure to tell her so this Mother’s Day. Let her know what a blessing her love is in your family’s lives. Celebrate this extra layer of love God has wrapped around you.
Read more about Nikki Jo and Tess Spencer’s good in-law relationship in in A Murder in the Mountains Mystery series.
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HEATHER DAY GILBERT
HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.” Find out more on heatherdaygilbert.com.