The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Probably the first short story book I have read in a decade. I don’t really like the genre but loved this book and picked it up to read because it was not promoted as short stories. I had to buy it because you can’t get it at the library – too much sex in it possibly, because it has won quite a few awards.

The basic premise that holds these stories together is that these are all ‘good’ church ladies but they too have their desires and this is a momentary glimpse into their lives when these are fulfilled. It is also a story of mothers and daughters. Mothers who are the church ladies and daughters who try to, and sometimes do, escape the rigidity of a church upbringing where you are ‘thrown out’ if you are queer or have a child out of wedlock.

There are stories about setting the ground rules for affairs, Instructions for Married Christian Husbands, no feelings but plenty of fantasies, Jael, where a Grandmother wonders if she has raised an ungodly child and Lyra James who eventually takes off her corset and releases more than just her body in How to Make Love to A Physicist.

Some of the stories are allegorical, others about being away from ‘home’ such as Snowfall, many have biblical references but all speak in some way of the shame of sex in relation to conservative Christianity and how it is secret or hidden away.

It is a quick and delightful read.

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