The Story Prize is an annual book award honoring the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction. Eligible books must be written in English and first published in the United States during a calendar year.
Three judges—critic and author Ismail Muhammad, bookseller Margot Sage-EL of Watchung Booksellers, and writer and Williams College professor Karen Shepard—chose Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies from the three books chosen as finalists.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church’s double standards and their own needs and passions. There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who has a crush on the preacher’s wife. At forty-two, Lyra realizes that her discomfort with her own body stands between her and a new love. As Y2K looms, Caroletta’s “same time next year” arrangement with her childhood best friend is tenuous. A serial mistress lays down the ground rules for her married lovers. In the dark shadows of a hospice parking lot, grieving strangers find comfort in each other. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.