Pastors' Wives by Lisa Cullen
April 30, 2013; 368 Pages
What’s it like when the man you married is already married to God? asks Pastors’ Wives, an often surprising yet always emotionally true first novel set in a world most of us know only from the outside.
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s debut novel Pastors’ Wives follows three women whose lives converge and intertwine at a Southern evangelical megachurch. Ruthie follows her Wall Street husband from New York to Magnolia, a fictional suburb of Atlanta, when he hears a calling to serve at a megachurch called Greenleaf. Reeling from the death of her mother, Ruthie suffers a crisis of faith—in God, in her marriage, and in herself. Candace is Greenleaf’s “First Lady,” a force of nature who’ll stop at nothing to protect her church and her superstar husband. Ginger, married to Candace’s son, struggles to play dutiful wife and mother while burying her calamitous past. All their roads collide in one chaotic event that exposes their true selves. Inspired by Cullen’s reporting as a staff writer for Time magazine, Pastors’ Wives is a dramatic portrayal of the private lives of pastors’ wives, caught between the demands of faith, marriage, duty, and love. (from Amazon).
I'm sure you've had this happen: you read the description on the back of the book and think...
Maybe this will be good. Maybe I'll like it. Then again, maybe I won't.
Then something about it tips the scale and you decide to give it a try. It might be the cover art or perhaps a recommendation from a trusted friend or librarian. For me it was winning a free advance copy from LibraryThing.
As I sat down with my copy of Pastors' Wives I re-read the cover. My christian sensibility expressed momentary trepidation as I wondered if I might be offended by any of the content. Usually my religious beliefs don't play a big part in my reading, but this seemed like it might hit close to home. I decided that if it got too uncomfortable I just wouldn't finish. After all that's always our prerogative. As it turns out there was nothing to worry about. And in fact my indifference quickly turned to interest as I became infatuated with the women of Greenleaf.
Ruthie, Candace and Ginger have nothing in common - except Greenleaf. The colossal megachurch ("Is that the mall?" asks Ruthie the first time she sees it) that for very different reasons is the nucleus that their lives revolve around. Each woman has a story, and they are as unique as their personalities. The book is written by alternating between these three characters. The author does a terrific job of giving them all a voice, and giving us the opportunity to really get to know them (something that doesn't always happen with this style).
In addition to the women (and their men), Greenleaf is a predominate character. I've seen these megachurches on TV, and I always wondered what they're like. Even though this one isn't real I get the impression that Ms. Cullen's portrayal is pretty accurate. It's something to see how influential it is on the characters. Everything from their homes, the cars they drive and the clothes they wear to people they befriend is orchestrated by the church.
Ms. Cullen's writing has a natural swiftness to it that swept me in right from the beginning. If I would have been able to I probably would have read it in one sitting. As it turns out it only took a couple of days. There's humor and sadness, and several unexpected events that continued to pique my interest as I followed these women. It seems that each of them is on a journey to discover things about themselves, their relationship with their spouse, their relationship with each other and their relationship with God. There are lots of references to the scripture that I found appropriate and necessary to the book (after all it is about pastors' wives!).
I really enjoyed this book, and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience. There were times that I found myself laughing out loud and on two separate occasions reading through tears. That's unusual for me. Not being emotional, but actually crying! That reason alone makes it worthy of a recommendation. The truth is though that Pastor's Wives has a lot more than that going for it. So, if you find yourself feeling indifferent, I hope that my review will be the thing that encourages you to give it a try. I really think you're going to like it!
To learn more about Lisa Cullen visit her website. Just like her writing in the book, the site is smart, interesting and funny. There's a great article on why she wrote Pastors' Wives, and another on picking names for the characters. You can also connect with her on Facebook.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing part of your day with me.
One of the great things about books is we all respond to them differently. Everyone has an opinion and there is no right or wrong. I'd love to hear what you thought of this book, and invite you to share your views in the comment section.
Wishing you all the happiness words can bring!
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What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr
May 7, 2013; 317 pages
How Far Will a Mother Go to Find Her Daughter?
Michelle Mason can't remember that day, that drive, that horrible crash that killed the young man in her car. All she knows is she's being held responsible, and her daughter is missing.
Despite a shaky marriage, a threatening lawsuit, and troubling flashbacks pressing in on her, Michelle throws herself into searching. Her daughter in the one person who might know what really happened that day, but the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of those closest to her, even herself. As her search hurtles toward a shattering revelation, Michelle must face the biggest challenge of her life. (from Amazon)
Before we get started I'd like to welcome you to kick-off post in the blog tour. I've been reviewing books and sharing them on the web for a while now, but this is my first time as part of a tour. Talk about pressure! Anyway, I'm glad you're here and that I have the chance to tell you what I think about this book.
We meet the main character Michelle 18 months after being involved in a horrific accident. From the cover we know that Michelle was driving, a young man died, she's being blamed, and her daughter is missing. Unfortunately Michelle doesn't know any of these things. Her recovery has been long and difficult. The traumatic brain injury she sustained has left her without any memory of the crash or the events leading up to it. Her husband Drew decided that it would be better to keep the truth from her so she doesn't get upset. He fabricates a story that Nikki, their teenage daughter, is attending school in Australia and even mails her postcards of famous landmarks. Now that Michelle has been released from the hospital she believes that Nikki will be coming home too. Her joyous homecoming turns surreal as the facts about the accident are revealed. In addition she learns that Drew is returning to New York where he has been living (and working).
Holy cow! Talk about upsetting and stressful! Michelle is stunned and angry. How could this happen? Why didn't anyone tell her? Where is her daughter and why isn't anyone doing anything to find her? These are some of the questions that she is determined to answer. But how? The last thing she remembers is wrapping Nikki's sweet 16 birthday present - when everything was normal. Or was it? Slowly Michelle begins to piece together the fractured bits of her memory as she struggles to find out what happened to her daughter.
I like Michelle, but I don't like her husband. I understand that sometimes you want to avoid giving people difficult news, but I can't believe for an instant that he was able to convince the doctors, hospital and therapists to go along with his lie about Nikki. It also seems incredibly harsh that he left her after less than 24 hours of being out of the hospital. Apparently their marriage was suffering more than anyone let on, but I guess that doesn't surprise me considering the lack of compassion he shows.
I can't help but think that this book would make terrific Lifetime Movie. It's got all the elements that you expect. A little tragedy, family drama, the mystery of the missing daughter, and the strained relationship between Michelle and her mother. Then there's the Hollywood backdrop and the untimely death of a rising star. All of those things feel a little cliche, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good story. I moved quickly through the book, rooting for Michelle and cursing the people who hindered her progress. The author captures the sense of urgency and desperation that any mother would surely feel in Michelle's situation.
As a knitter I was thrilled to see that there are several references to yarn and knitting! It's something Michelle and Nikki share and the appearance of a unique yarn or garment has special meaning to both of them. I also like the classic rock references and the lyrics that Nikki used to send messages and share her feelings. More than once I found myself with a Door's song stuck in my head long after I closed the book!
What a Mother Knows is an intriguing story that really made me think. How far would I go to find my child? That's easy - as far as I have to. How about you?
What a Mother Knows - Book Launch / Blog Tour
April 29 – Robin Reads & Writes
May 1 - Chick Lit is Not Dead
May 2 - Bookfoolery
May 3 - The Bookworm
May 4 - Lori's Reading Corner
May 5 - The Self Taught Cook
May 6 - Mrs Condit Reads Books
May 7 - From the TBR Pile
May 8 - Cocktails and Books
May 9 - Burton Book Review
May 10 - Chick Lit Plus
May 12 - The Book Diva’s Reads
May 13 - Peeking Between the Pages
May 14 - Long and Short Reviews
May 15 - Rainy Day Ramblings
May 16 - Help4NewMoms
May 17 - Winey Mommy
May 18 - Cozy Up with a Good Read
May 20 - A Bookish Way of Life
May 21 – Confessions of a Book Junkie
May 22 - 5 Minutes for Mom
May 23 - Angela Klocke
May 24 - WeeShare
May 26 - Brianna Lee
May 28 - Reviewing Shelf
May 29 - Socrates Book Reviews
May 31 - Passionate about Books
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