Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Short Story Wednesday: "Peach Cobbler" from THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES


   "My mother's peach cobbler was so good, it made God himself cheat on his wife"

A great first line in a terrific little collection of stories (Deesha Philyaw) dealing with Black women, church-going, and life in a patriarchal world. God, in this case, is Pastor Troy Neely, who Olivia at first believes to actually be God. Certainly his sonorous voice at church is God-like and his hold over Olivia's mother is too. He has the big car, the big house, the expensively dressed wife so often found in ministers in Black churches.

Her mother and Neely are engaged in a ten-year affair, which the peach cobbler is part of.  (She makes it every Monday the day that he comes, throwing it out if he doesn't turn up) Over time Olivia can't help but wonder if other women are baking peach cobbler for him the other days of the week. 

As Olivia grows older, she learns how to make cobber. Her mother won't even let her taste the ones she makes for the pastor so it's experiment after experiment. Eventually Olivia is hired to tutor the Pastor's son and she begins a relationship of sorts with him. She brings he and his mother a peach cobbler when a death in the family occurs. But then she learns that, like her mother, her role in the son's life will be as the "woman on the side" when he takes a more acceptable girl to the prom. 

A lot of this story concerns the relationship between Olivia and her mother. Her mother is terribly hard and withholding, thinking that will make Olivia a righteous woman. She is punishing her daughter for her own mistakes. The writing is excellent in this and in all the stories in this collection. It is a debut collection and it was nominated for the National Book Award.

Other Stories

Matt Paust

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley 




Todd Mason


Jeff Meyerson said...

You didn't mention the author. It is Deesha Philyaw.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, this does sound good, Patti. I love those windows into the way people live.

George said...

I think Diane's Book Club is considering THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES.

TracyK said...

When you mentioned this book in your post on Monday, I immediately thought, "I have to have this book." It is available from the local bookstore so maybe I will go that way.

Todd Mason said...

I've added my tardy, weak example of a SSW post for this bad year. Thanks for what you make of if.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thank you, Patti, for picking up my effort. I do appreciate it very much.

Mathew Paust said...

It didn't occur to me until I read Tracy's and Jerry's reviews that SSW was for individual stories, not collections. I'm doing a quick promo tonite on Robert Coover's "You Must Remember This," a hilarious parody of a Rick & Ilsa scene in Casablanca in which they consummate in excruciating detail their mutual affection. I'll post it on my blog with link to yours, Patti, and I apologize for being so blind as to miss the point of the SSW feature.

Todd Mason said...

It's gone either way, Matt. I've tended to do several stories from a single book or magazine, or several from several sources.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, anything goes. No rules here, Matt. But either send me a link or make sure it comes up on Wednesday or I will miss it.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

While it may be designed as a one story deal, I am a man of magnificent Texas beefsteak size and temperment, so I am treating it like antibiotics where they have to give me more than what they do for lesser mortals, food where cleaning a plate has never been an issue, and many other things and have been reviewing more than one short story in a publication. :)

Mathew Paust said...

I emailed you my link, Patti, hideously late, of course. Sorry again for the misunderstanding. This one's a quickie take on You Must Remember This, Robert Coover's parody of the Bogart/Bergman seduction scene in Casablanca. It's one of 13 short stories in his collection A Night at the Movies. Note of caution: wise to pee before reading (extremely wise).

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