Thank you to Netgallery for my free copy, in exchange for a honest review. I didn’t know what to expect, as the blurb doesn’t give away much. But wow! I really loved each and every story in this anthology. I read it in one day! I haven’t actually read ‘literary fiction’ for some time, but this really struck a cord and memorable. The author has a very unique and frank way about her. Let’s get into the review.
Short stories about race and sexuality by a Pittsburgh author whose work on African American topics has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and McSweeney’s.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions.
There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher’s wife. At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta’s “same time next year” arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other.
With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
Kim’s review 5 ‘wow’ stars!
The reviews on Netgallery when I stumbled across this title, under the multicultural interest section made me wonder what I’d find inside the book. I don’t normally read reviews at all. If I want to read, I will regardless of who said what, but I do sometimes just look at star ratings from reviews, many seemed low when I picked up this title. I can’t understand it, as this is a gem of a book! I honestly think no matter your race or gender anyone can really get into this literary fiction, even if the focus is on women of colour and their experiences.
In all honesty, the blurb does not give away the true beauty of this author’s work, I was pulled in by the blurb, cover etc, but after reading it I feel that this for me was one of those books that took me by surprise, in how good, raw, honest and frank, and engaging these stories are. There is no heavy ‘religious focus’ either, it’s used in context of experiences of women who really wanna break free of all that, or have been chained to it for whatever reason. And it makes very insightful and thought provoking reading.
I would say, if you are overly sensitive then pass this up, and save your one star review for ‘bad language’. If you put the characters into context, time frame etc, you can totally understand the language the characters (not author) use, it makes sense. In fact if you’re a very sensitive reader full stop, it may not be for you.
There are more than a handful of stories here, I lost count I was just turning pages really quickly. I don’t have a favourite as I loved them all, but some really hit me and struck me as ‘wow’. There’s one about a young girl, and her mother is dating or ‘seeing’ a married pastor for a decade and what she went through. The ending and ‘moral’ of the story touched me when I reflected. The second one that was highly memorable for me, was the story about a young girl who had a ‘thing’ for a lady at church, the ending was crazy! Lastly ‘How to Make Love to a Physicist’ was touch a beautiful, heart-warming story, showing a woman’s growth and her ability to love herself, and fall in love, and run away and fall in love again! I loved it. All about two people connecting at a distance, then falling together as maybe ‘fate’ and growing. I could go on, I loved them all.
Overall, this is a great literary fiction piece of art here, I enjoyed every page and would even read it a second time, later down the line. I felt each story had some kind of moral to it. The characters were just fantastic! Lively, bold, and at times had me in chuckling. I would read more from this author, and I would love a copy for my book case not just e-book. I wish her so much luck when this drops for publication in September 2020. 5 ‘wow good read’ stars from me!