cover of the book The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, titled displayed in white font over a peach against a pastel pink background

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

Deesha Philyaw
Pushkin Press

Philyaw’s debut short story collection took the world by storm when it was first published in 2020, and I can only hope it does so again now that it’s out in paperback. Comprised of nine stories of varied lengths and structures, the book explores a wide spectrum of emotions, yet remains cohesive in its examination of blackness, womanhood, queerness, family, religion, and the intersection of all five.

Although some of the stories are utterly heartbreaking, I was surprised by the tenderness and optimism in a lot of them. What’s even better, each story feels like a universe of its own (even if there is some subtle interconnection to watch out for), so the resulting contrast is expansive rather than jarring.

All stories are excellently crafted; their tone, point of view, and structure all carefully chosen to construct these insightful little gems. Filled with complex characters that feel endearingly, often painfully, real, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is an ideal book to slowly sink into, one story at a time.

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