Book Review: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Amazon.com: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies: 9781949199734: Philyaw,  Deesha: Books

Title: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Author: Deesha Philyaw

Genre: Short Stories

Number of Pages: 179

Rating: A

Recommended?: Yes


Confessions time: I hardly ever read short stories. I am much more of a novel or a memoir person and they just don’t tend to grab my interest. In fact, I could probably count off the number of short story collections I’ve actually read on my fingers. That said, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies completely won me over. I loved it’s simple and spare but powerful writing and the sheer amount of character detail and feeling the author packed into each story.

I thought this book was going to be LGBTQIA+ themed, and even though it is in a way only about three of the short stories have lesbian characters. Each story has a Black female protagonist who is forced to contend with sexuality, religious beliefs, and the secrets she keeps from her friends and family. The parents are often not too good at parenting and the heroine has to figure out things on her own.

My favorite story was ‘Peach Cobbler’ even though it was probably also the most depressing one. It hit me right in the feels and the end left me with a hollow feeling inside, but it was also extremely well-done and managed to keep me guessing throughout. This was one of those collections where I loved almost every single story and every one I read challenged the one before in terms of quality. They were all good.

Out of all the stories ‘Not-Daniel’ was probably the weakest link, simply because it didn’t have as much going on as the others. It was very short and simple and as a result had the least character development. Anyway, this is a very moving book that powerfully deals with the inner lives of Black women and girls living in families and communities that sometimes don’t understand them. ‘Eula,’ ‘Snowfall,’ and ‘Jael’ are all lesbian-themed in case you’re mostly interested in the LGBTQIA+ element, but I’d highly recommend you read all of them because they’re definitely worth it.

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