Thursday, January 8, 2009
The Sinner’s Guide to Confession
By Phyllis Schieber
Female friendships go through different seasons, just as our lives have different seasons. Whether your husband leaves you for a twenty-something law clerk at his firm, you’re grieving the death of a spouse who kept secrets from you, or you’re in the midst of a marriage that is foundering, the common thread is that your friends are always there to help you pick up the pieces. That is the theme of The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, a new book by Phyllis Schieber. Not being familiar with Schieber’s work, I was somewhat bemused by the title of the book when I signed on to participate in the virtual book tour for this novel, but I decided to keep an open mind.
The women in this novel are all of a certain age and heading toward that treacherous territory when one starts to feel “invisible” in a society that worships youth and beauty. They are also on the cusp of an exciting period of self-discovery, finally gaining the courage to show oneself to the world—warts and all.
The main characters, Barbara, Kaye and Ellen, are longtime friends, but each has secrets she has not shared with her friends or family. An established writer of romance novels, Barbara has a talent for writing erotic novels—though she writes them under a pseudonym. Kaye is conflicted about her affair with a younger man who elicits emotions in her that she hasn’t experienced with her husband in years. Ellen is haunted by the memories of her teenage pregnancy and the baby daughter she was forced to give up for adoption.
An anchor throughout the novel is Kaye’s mother, a strong and forceful woman who is struggling with her own issues of independence and aging, but somehow manages to face these new challenges with grace and dignity. I immediately felt pulled into this novel and the finely drawn characters. The writing is fresh and engaging and the main players are real, strong, flawed, and eminently likeable. While I found The Sinner’s Guide to Confession predictable at times, it was still a worthwhile read.
Review by Gita Tewari