The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

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.

There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who nurses a crush on the preacher’s wife; the mother who bakes a sublime peach cobbler every Monday for her date with the married Pastor; and Eula and Caroletta, single childhood friends who seek solace in each other’s arms every New Year’s Eve.

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.

‘It’s impossible to pick a standout from this collection… a tender and rich look at all the complexities and layers of female sexuality.’ – Red magazine

This no holds barred short story collection is like nothing I’ve ever read before and it will definitely keep you turning the pages if you love dipping into shorter sliv=ces of fiction and might even go a long way to converting you even if it’s not a genre you’re usually drawn to. This collection has something for everyone and brings its characters to life in a fresh and original way that doesn’t pull any punches. I love the fact that it contains bite-size stories from so many different women’s experiences and allows you to see that you shouldn’t judge these ‘church ladies’ by the sheen on their bibles and that there is a lot more going on in the secret lives of the righteous than you might ever have imagined…

I also loved the fact that the ‘theme’ of this anthology was sexuality and femininity ’ which meant that you could be exploring marital relationships in one story and then thinking about living outside the rules in the very next one. My favourite one was Instruction for Married Christian Husbands and I’m not going to give out any spoilers, but I’m sure you will love it just as much as I did and I bet you will not be able to finish it without laughing! It’s perfect for that late night ‘Just one more chapter…’ feeling that you get when you are really enjoying a book and the fact that the stories are so diverse really means that there’s something here for everyone.

There are so many different kinds of short stories here – dark and lighthearted, lengthy and shorter more Instamatic pieces and lengthier insights into some of these characters too. I think this is a perfect Summer holiday read as you can dip in and out of it and you will certainly feel the temperature rise between the pages as well as on your lounger.

Thanks so much to Tara McEvoy From Pushkin Press or sending me a copy and asking me to take part on the Blog Tour. What I’m not thanking her so much for are the several new books I’ve added to my wishlist after checking out Pushkin’s other books this summer – That #TBR is rising and rising 

If you loved the sound of this book, you can buy it here  and also check out the rest of the Orenda Bookshelf if you’re looking for a fantastic summer holiday read!

Writer On The Shelf

Deesha Philyaw’s collection of short stories about Black women, sex, and the Black church, THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES is forthcoming from West Virginia University Press in September 2020. Her work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Cheat River Review, TueNight, ESPN’s The Undefeated and The Baltimore Review; Essence, Ebony, and Bitch magazines; and various anthologies. Deesha is a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People. Deesha is also the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband.

Learn more about Deesha’s work at

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