The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Rating - 10/10
This book was literary everywhere when it came out. It was impossible to not hear about it. Then when I was chatting to my bestie Nicole, a fellow book lover, who was currently reading it. She was telling me how amazing it was and I was so jealous of her reading it. You know what she did?! She went and bought a copy just because...You are a lifelong friend Nicole and I dedicate this book review to you dear friend. Not only was this a book that everyone was raving about in 2020, it was also a National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.
About The Secret Lives of Church Ladies:
The setting of the book are various locations in the south.
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.
Intertwined in these stories, are secret longings, forbidden love affairs, new love, and self discoveries. 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.
Oh boy, this book! Lawd, mmh mmh mmh. Where do I begin!
I’m just going to come out and say it. I fucking loved it. Well done to the author for this debut read. If you want a book filled with soul, character, unapologetic and bold stories, then look no further.
There are nine beautiful engrossing stories in this book. Some I loved more than others and others I seriously loved more than others. The standout story for me, was “Peach Cobbler’ and also surprisingly ‘Eula’.
Each one completely pulls you into their struggles, their wants and needs, their individual stories, it was beautiful.
The writing was perfect and I love the length of these stories too. Philyaw elaborated on some of the stories, and some were short and sweet. The length of the book is honestly so great! I didn’t want any more, nor did I want any less. I honestly don’t know how she wrote these short stories so well! It’s quite a difficult task to do so and I was truly impressed by her writing in this book.
Let’s talk about the actual subject matter of the book. These are church ladies. It goes without saying that church ladies have certain expectations and standards that they must uphold or try to achieve. There’s a lot of pressure that these black women endure in their daily lives. You felt the weight of this burden within each story told in this book. These black women are usually the backbone of these communities, and they hold it down. It’s what they're supposed to do. So imagine if you feel a different way, or you want to love a person your own religion won’t allow you to love. This is what Philyaw plays on and it’s absolutely brilliant. The overall message within this book is freedom. Free yourself from the shackles of being a church lady and to live your life the way you want to live it. I will also add that at some points while reading this book I had some ‘Oh My!’ moments and some you know, ‘clutching my pearls’ moments. Then you had to read more and more.
It was such an uplifting, tender and powerful read. Black women deal with a lot of pressure in life, then add the whole church communities pressure to it. It’s a lot! You must be graceful, kind, lead a good example, somehow manage to do it all, raise kids, keep your man happy, volunteer, I meannn It’s a lot! I can’t speak from a church ladies’ perspective, but I can certainly understand the pressures of being a black woman.
This is a must read for all black women, and anyone who wants to read a tender, powerful and engrossing short collection of stories. Even though I didn’t 100% love each and every story, the weight of each story is what gave this book an overall 10/10 rating. Could not recommend this book anymore. Also this book would make such an excellent limited series tv show! I would definitely watch it if they made one.
This song came to me very early on while reading this book. Also this artist as well carries the same weight in terms of her voice and her aura as this book does. I knew I wanted a soulful song, and it had to come from an artist that commands respect, and an artist that does whatever she wants in life. A feminist too. I chose this absolute classic and timeless tune, just like this book. ‘A Sunday Kind of Love’ by the incredible Etta James. What a song. What an artist. And what a voice! Perfect for the theme of this book. Sundays are a sacred day for church goers, and it just felt right too. Hope you agree!
Genre: Literary Fiction | Short Stories | LGBTQ+
Pages: 192 Pages
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: West Virginia University Press