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.

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.

31 comments:

Melanie said...

Thanks for the review. I do think it is something my book club would enjoy.

Michele said...

Sounds like a good one. Thanks for the review!

bookfool said...

Thanks for your great review, it's tempting me back into "chick lit"!

xoxo moi! said...

Sounds like a great book :)

Jersey Shore Deb said...

This does sound like an intriguing book--I agree, as I get older, the Chick Lit books are getting harder to relate to...
Would love to win a copy.

carolsnotebook said...

What a great review and it does sound perfect for a book club.

Phyllis Schieber said...

I am so excited to read your comments. Julie's review gave me a lot to think about, especially the appeal of the book to women of different ages. I never really think of my work as "Chick Lit" even though I can see how my work has greater appeal to women, but the issues in SINNER'S can speak to so many people. My work often deals with how women navigate relationships, but not only relationships with men. The women in SINNER'S are wives, mothers, daughters, professionals, and friends who have to juggle their roles and still maintain some sanity. I think this is true of all of us, and it becomes even more complex as we age and our priorities shift. Mostly, I believe that we all just want to be valued, don't you?

Nikki Leigh said...

Hi Julie

Thank you so much for hosting Phyllis today. It is a great book and I'm glad you posted the link to the show I did with Phyllis yesterday - she shared lots of great info :)

Nikki Leigh

bermudaonion said...

Please enter me, Julie. There's no way I'm putting a secret on here for an extra entry. milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Phyllis Schieber said...

I've recently done a few book clubs, and it was a wonderful experience on so many levels. Women are so eager to talk abut their experiences, and so many readers have come forward to share their personal experiences or their knowledge of women who were forced to relinquish their children at birth. THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION is not a "Chick Lit" novel in the sense of those novels as we have come to know them. SINNER'S is about women and about their inner struggles and the strength to balance their lives.

traveler said...

Thanks for this wonderful review. I was enthralled with your feature today. A book like this is so appealing and something that I can deeply appreciate. The subject and the characters call to me. Since I am in that age range it is meaningful as well as poignant.

diane said...

What a great review and novel. I feel that this type of story is memorable and meaningful. At least it is to me. Reading about women's lives and their thoughts and hopes always interested me. I would noe classify this with chick lit at all. I hav never read chick lit nor will I. This is more mature and a great story. Thanks for introducing me to this great author.

Phyllis Schieber said...

I am so honored to have the opportunity to reach women my own age (and younger and older as well!) and to share my sense of our struggles and our triumphs. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder, "Who is that woman?" Other times, however, I catch a glimpse of myself and see my former self, the younger woman, who had so many dreams, so many plans. I've satisfied some of them, but I'm hardly done!

April said...

Hi Julie! I have left you the Butterfly Award at my blog! Here's the link to check it out: http://cafeofdreams.blogspot.com/2009/01/butterfly-award.html

ruth said...

A book that I can totally relate to and understand. Thank you so much for this lovely review and interesting glimpse about the author. I checked out the author's website and find it intriguing. I am way over fifty, love reading this type of story and will think about it for a long time since it resonates with me.

darbyscloset said...

Wow this sounds like a great read! I love books that go into the way women can be so devious!!!
Thanks for hosting and I hope you win a copy!!
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

darbyscloset said...

Okay now for my secret, which I guess after this won't be a secret!I love people and I love to talk to people and my secret is that I was released from my first paycheck job for talking to much to the customers......
Thanks for the opportunity!
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

principessa said...

I enjoyed reading your review of The Sinner's Guide to Confession. I was amazed and riveted. This unique book is something special. I have never read Chick Lit which is a new term. This is a story with character and life which would provide me with enjoyment and is thought provoking as well. Thanks for this preview of life and its pitfalls.

Phyllis Schieber said...

I love Darby's secret! Isn't it ironic that Darby's "secret" is that she talks too much! I had to laugh! Thank you for sharing that.
I think we all have secrets because it can be too risky to tell everyone everything! The women in SINNER'S understand that secrets tend to reveal themselves when they are ready to be told.

Phyllis Schieber said...

As I said before, I'm not offended in any way by the term "Chick Lit" even though I think my work falls more into the category of Women's Fiction.

Karlie said...

Sounds like a great book! I love chick lit.

Phyllis Schieber said...

Much thanks to Julie for a thoughtful and interesting review. It gave me a lot to think about. And thank you to everyone who commented. I look forward to hearing more from everyone on my website
http://www.thesinnersguidetoconfession.com or on my blog: http:www.phyllisschieber.blogspot.com

Gwendolyn B. said...

Wow! This does sound like a good story. I'm particularly interested in Ellen, and would read the book just to find out how her story plays out!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Red lady-Bonnie said...

This sounds like an interesting book Julie! I enjoy reading books about the dynamics of women's friendships. How nice of the author to stop in and comment!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Ellen's story really does seem to take over as the story unfolds. Her secret seems the most profound. I am eager to know if readers agree with me. In response to Red-lady Bonnie, well, I am delighted to stop by and chat with readers anytime!

Anna said...

I'm part of the tour, too, and I'll be starting this one very soon. Sounds like a good one. Great review!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

No need to enter me into the contest, because I am on the tour as well. But I am excited to review this one.

avisannschild said...

I'm with Kathy, no way am I revealing secrets just to get a free book, although I'd love to win this one. I've been doing the rounds and it seems like everyone's enjoyed it so far!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi Julie,
I'm back to tell you that I've picked a winner: avisannschild started on the tour with me from this very site and kept through straight on. I think that deserves some reward. I want to thank you again for your terrific review, and I want to thank everyone who stopped by. Please let me know where to have the book sent.
Don't forget that WILLING SPIRITS will be out on March 3, and we will be touring cyberspace again!
Phyllis

avisannschild said...

Thank you so much, Julie and Phyllis! I'm excited about reading this book!

Phyllis Schieber said...

Hi avianschild!
Thank you for following the tour and for posting so many comments. I enjoyed getting to know you.
Please be sure to let me know what you think about the book.
Don't forget that the tour for WILLING SPIRITS begins in a few weeks! I will look forward to hearing from you again on that tour!
Phyllis