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Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Pastors' Wives" by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

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' Wivesis a dramatic portrayal of the private lives of pastors' wives, caught between the demands of faith, marriage, duty, and love.

I've been thinking and thinking about how to describe this book.  Tossing words around in my mind for several weeks.  I'm still not sure how to do it.

Pastors' Wives is amazingly well written. It's a tightly-woven story of several families all connected to pastors and how they handle the pressures and stresses of always being the public specter, of how much of a leadership role they really play in their respective churches.  The details spring each character to life and the large cast of characters keep the story interesting.  The drama happening inside the church reads like a soap opera (as I imagine it often does in real life), and you won't be bored with this story.

Unlike many of today's popular novels, Cullen's writing sounds formal and a bit distant.  It took me a few chapters to switch gears mentally into this style of writing, but I appreciate the excellent quality of her work.  Nobody could claim that this is a watered-down piece of literature.

I appreciate how one of the biggest problems was resolved in the end, but the ending for another left me disappointed.  Not because it wasn't realistic, because it may be, but because I didn't feel as if it offered any encouragement or hope for readers.  Life is not perfect and we don't always get the happy ending that we want, but in this case, I felt as if the characters made a poor choice and that it was considered acceptable.  That attitude left a bad taste in my mouth where this book is concerned.

So with that said, I'm still not sure what to say about this book.  Because of the questionable ending, I won't be passing this book along to anyone who may be in a similar situation.  If you're strong in your faith journey, however, and you appreciate quality literature, you might really enjoy Pastors' Wives.

To read other reviews of this book, click here.  Go here to purchase your own copy.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen was a longtime staff writer for TIME magazine. She now develops TV pilots for production companies and recently sold her first pilot for "The Ordained" to CBS. Born in Japan, Cullen lives in New Jersey with family.
Find out more about Lisa at 

I received a free copy of Pastors' Wives from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

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