I’ve read a lot of short stories already this year, but so far The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is my favorite collection, hands down. And I think the reason I enjoyed them so much is that, like most of my favorite literature, these stories are really driven by and focused on characters – in this case those characters are strong, dynamic, Black women of all ages, professions, and perspectives. From a woman learning to accept love in “How to Make Love to a Physicist” to four sisters grappling with the death of their mostly-absent father in “Dear Sister”, these stories really show off Philyaw’s range of character voice and perspective.
But I should also mention that character development isn’t the only thing that makes these stories really memorable. I also keep finding myself contemplating the ways that Deesha Philyaw was able to capture the nuances of Southern culture throughout these stories – even in those stories which took place outside the South. The influence of the South shows up through the subtle details of setting/place, religion, food, dialogue, and so much more.
In short, these are beautiful stories that have so much to offer readers and which are a truly brilliant debut from Deesha Philyaw.