Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Review: The Sinner's Guide to Confession
Summary: Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.
Barbara, a widowed mother of three grown children, is an accomplished romance writer, who also has a secret persona as a celebrated erotica writer—an existence she feels compelled to keep from everyone. Kaye, a practicing psychotherapist and the mother of two, finds her marriage stable, but joyless. When she becomes involved with another man, she keeps her affair secret from her friends, too conflicted about her duplicity to expose herself. Ellen, a successful interior designer, childless and the seemingly perfect modern woman, harbors the most profound secret of all.
After her beloved husband betrays her, leaving her for a woman half her age who is also pregnant with his child, Ellen must face all her losses anew. First, there is the pain of the children she could never conceive with her husband. More importantly, however, there is the haunting memory of the child she had at sixteen and was forced to relinquish at birth. Estranged from her family, Ellen is reluctantly thrust back into contact after the death of her father, and learns that if she is ever to find her lost daughter—now a grown woman herself—she will have to confront her shame--and share her secret with her two closest friends.. -- Berkley Putnam
THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION by Phyllis Schieber is a very good book about women and their friendships -- notice the emphasis on the term "women." I have mentioned a few times that I enjoy the occasional "chick lit" book, but I'm finding that I don't have a lot in common with the characters anymore. As I approach 40, I'm realizing that I have more in common with their mothers -- UGH -- than I do the main characters! Recently I've noticed that things are changing. I guess authors have realized that those of us who loved chick lit 10-15 years ago are now "mature" women who are married and have children. I'm so happy to see that there are now fun books out there with "middle-aged" women as the lead characters.
The three main characters in THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION are actually a little older than I am -- probably closer to my mother's age; however, I still found myself enjoying their story and even relating a bit to them. I am certain that many women out there will have a lot in common with these characters and even see themselves and their friends in this book. There are lots of interesting themes in this book, especially those relating to secrets; but for me, this book is really about the strength and resilience of women and their friendships.
One thing that many women will appreciate is the author's ability to portray these women as real people. I found each of these characters to have serious personality flaws. In fact, many of their relationships were deeply affected by their issues and secrets. These women not only had relationship problems with their significant others, but they also bickered amongst themselves. While I definitely don't have this type of relationship with any of my close friends, I don't doubt that frienships like this do exist. Most importantly, the women in this book cared deeply about each other and were always there for one another.
Ms. Schieber did a wonderful job of developing these characters -- they were all extremely complex (and even rather sexual.) They weren't afraid to think about, dream about and talk about sex. At first I was a little put off by all this frank talk (I mean who wants to think of their mothers and grandmothers like this) but eventually I learned to appreciate that women are still women no matter how old they are. Another part of this novel that I found to be interesting was that all three of these characters were living with major secrets. While most of us aren't keeping this level of secrets from our family and friends, I do think the author makes an important point that we are all hiding things from those we love. This novel points out very clearly how secrets can affect not only your life, but also the lives of your family and friends.