“Built around the lives of women at the intersection of the Black community and the Church, this collection soars.
Philyaw’s characters are tender and real, they’re complex women who repeatedly engage religion through a feminist lens. They push against the ideas interpreted and translated between men across centuries, against the confines of what it means for a woman to live “right.” They’re women who love and desire, whose relationships with each other, between mother and daughter, between partners, and with their own needs are deftly explored.
Heartbreaking, healing, fulfilling, soul-expanding and soul-crushing, these stories ache for their protagonists’ freedom.
Standouts: “Peach Cobbler,” “How to Make Love to a Physicist,” and “Snowfall” – though, to be honest, every one of these stories is stunning.”
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.