I listened to the Secret Lives of Church Ladies last week. I went into it blind but once I realized it was a collection of short stories I got a little nervous. I haven’t liked many that I have read but that was not the case with this. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories.
Hearing these women’s perspectives on navigating life was definitely interesting especially considering I grew up in the church. I was pleasantly surprised by the rawness and vulnerability in some of these stories. They were all very honest and open in their individual journeys and individual struggles and it’s an honesty that you don’t expect from “Church ladies” of all people.
My favorite chapters were Peach Cobbler, Jael, and especially How to Make Love to a Pharmacist. I’ll highlight the last because it spoke to me the loudest. Here we have a character who is struggling with considering her body to be her home… to really feel like her body is hers so much to the point that it prevents her from fully allowing herself to be in a relationship with someone that could actually be good for her. There’s a portion at the end of the chapter where she goes to church with her mother without “proper” under garments on, i.e. Stockings, girdle, whatever it is that’s supposed to suck you in and keep you from breathing properly throughout the service.
And after, her mother berates her and tells her that she shouldn’t come to church like that ever again. She then promises that she won’t and knows it’s a promise she’ll keep because she won’t come to church again at all.
She was finally feeling like she was becoming herself, comfortable in her own skin and there were these unspoken rules that told her that that wasn’t enough and it was just enough to make her not want to return. The irony that it is the environment where you are to “come as you are” except for people who don’t wear stockings. That moment in particular highlighted what I’ve considered to be a flaw in some churches. (emphasis on SOME. not all.) Some churches tend to say come as you are but the actions and words of the people who attend can be the complete opposite and it has the ability to push people away and create an environment where people don’t feel comfortable enough to really begin to experience everything that comes with really building a true and honest relationship with God in the first place and no… we are not just talking about stockings. But I suppose I won’t go off on that tangent.
Every character in every chapter had a story and this author told them so well without missing a beat. This book strips down the average black church goer persona and gives all the rawness you know is there but no one ever talks about when it comes to the drama that comes with the world’s overtaken version religion.
This is a book that I’d recommend. It is juicy, enticing and gives everything you would want from a collection of short stories from the aunties of the church. Check it out if you haven’t.