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.
There is a website devoted to THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION. There are some terrific words of praise for Ms. Schieber's books from two of my favorite authors -- Jodi Picoult and M.J. Rose. In addition, you can learn more about the book including short descriptions of the three main characters (including some of their secrets.) There is also an essay written by the author as well as a more detailed bio.
THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION would make a wonderful book club selection. There is even a readers' guide with 13 questions included in the back of the paperback edition of the book. There are loads of terrific issues/themes to discuss including female relationships, secrets (including betrayal, affairs, adultery, secret careers, and hidden identity), family (motherhood, marriage, grown children), and adoption (biological mothers and the impact of being forced to give up a child, adopted children in search of biological mothers, and teens forced to give up children for adoption.) I have no doubt that your book club could take about this book for hours!
Would you like to win a free book? It's very easy to be entered in a drawing for a FREE book by Phyllis Schieber. Post comments on any of the blogs participating in the virtual tour (including right here on Booking Mama); and you will be entered for a chance to win a free Phyllis Schieber book. One random person will win.
In addition, you also have the opportunity to win another book by sharing a secret after this post (or any post participating in the blog tour.) One secret will be selected to win a free book. As an added bonus, the blog owner that hosted the winning comments will also win a book -- so please leave me some comments! I look forward to reading all of your interesting stories/secrets as well as your questions for Phyllis Schieber. Good luck!
Here's a little information about author Phyllis Schieber: "The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters." Her first novel, Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION, was released by Berkley Putnam and in March 2008, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of WILLING SPIRITS. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Schieber, make sure you check out her blog and listen to this show on BlogTalk Radio.
A big thanks goes out to Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours for sending me THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION.