The Sisterhood of the Queen Mamas is the latest of my forays into “Christian women’s fiction,” In the case of this novel, the cover art, breezy tone, and Steeple Hill Cafe imprint all suggest it’s best categorized as “Christian chicklit” — light, humourous, but with a spiritual undertone.
Seldom have I wanted to like a book as much as The Sisterhood…, without actually liking it. I love the fact that the main characters are not twenty-something girls looking for romance, but retired ministers’ wives who for the first time in their busy lives have the freedom to explore who they are outside of the spotlight of their husbands’ ministry. Odessa and Maxine’s interracial sister-like friendship plays out against the backdrop of a Texas flea market and a group of younger women in whose lives the Queen Mama’s meddle and matchmake, with grace-filled results.
Doesn’t that sound like a winner of a book? It’s a great premise, and the narrative voice — Odessa’s stream-of-consciousness rambling punctuated by some practically postmodern interruptions from Maxine — should be a winner. Sadly, it was in the voice that the book fell down for me. I found the narrator(s) too self-consciously cutesy, to the point that in places they began to grate on my nerves. Also, I found the plot hung together poorly — all too often I was caught up in an incident, anxious to see how it turned out as a chapter ended on a cliffhanger — only to discover that the next chapter moved onto a different scene and a different day, without ever resolving the situation or leaving the resolution offstage, only briefly alluded to. This frustrated me — everytime I was getting invested emotionally, I felt cheated.
Still, the premise of the book is engaging and there’s a lot of fun as well as a lot of faith here. Since the things that bothered me were mainly stylistic, it’s entirely possible that another reader could pick up the same book and fall completely in love with it. If you like Christian fiction, you could do worse than to give this book a try — but it’s possible that, like me, you’ll find that it doesn’t live up to its title, its cover, or its potential.