PASTORS' WIVES gives readers an insightful behind the scenes
look at what life is like for those who are married to those
who are married to God. The women in PASTORS' WIVES provide
varying takes on what it means to be the woman behind the
man of God.
Ruthie's life is everything she wants it to be, with a PR
career and a Wall Street husband, until he hears a calling
from God that lands them at a suburban Atlanta megachurch.
At Greenleaf, the accomplished but spiritually unsure
Ruthie has lost her bearings and has to find her way as she
becomes steeped in a totally new culture with its own
language, rituals and expectations.
Candace, the First Lady of Greenleaf, has been living this
life for some time. She was all but born to it, and will let
nothing and no one come between her husband and his mantle
as the shepherd of this megachurch.
Ginger, Candace's daughter-in-law, struggles with the guilt
of her past and the burdens of her present, even as she does
her best to be a dutiful wife and mother.
Keenly observant and wryly funny, Cullen does an excellent
job of portraying the humanity of these women as they
wrestle with the lives they have been given to live. I
loved how Candace, the "Iron Lady", is always motivated by
good intent even when her actions are seen as overbearing by
others. Ginger, whose every action seems a tiny rebellion,
will squeeze sympathy out of the most jaded reader. And
Ruthie always seems on the verge of walking away, adding a
layer of suspense to an already riveting tale.
As someone who grew up in church, married a man, from a long
line of ministers, who accepted his own call to minister for
God, and lived a life that drew from Ruthie's, Candace's and
Ginger's, I found PASTORS' WIVES to be quite real and
honest. From the outside looking in, observers want these
women to be perfect specimens of Christian womanhood,
marriage and motherhood, but rarely, if ever, is that the
case. From the inside, these women struggle with all the
same things that other women struggle with, i.e. finding
their place in the world, balancing work and family, and
managing the expectations of others for their lives, not to
mention weighing their own hopes and dreams and trying to
bury their pasts. Perhaps the only missing viewpoint is of
the woman who graciously and willingly takes on being a
pastor's wife, maybe even goes looking for it, and manages
that mantle with total grace and aplomb. Those women exist
too. Nonetheless, Cullen has written a surprisingly fast-
paced tale that displays the humanity of the women called
upon to support these special men in a laugh-out-loud,
sensitive and perceptive way.
What’s it like when the man you married is already married
to God? asks Pastors’ Wives, an often surprising yet always
emotionally true first novel set in a world most of us know
only from the outside.
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s debut novel Pastors’ Wives follows
three women whose lives converge and intertwine at a
Southern evangelical megachurch. Ruthie follows her Wall
Street husband from New York to Magnolia, a fictional suburb
of Atlanta, when he hears a calling to serve at a megachurch
called Greenleaf. Reeling from the death of her mother,
Ruthie suffers a crisis of faith—in God, in her marriage,
and in herself. Candace is Greenleaf’s “First Lady,” a force
of nature who’ll stop at nothing to protect her church and
her superstar husband. Ginger, married to Candace’s son,
struggles to play dutiful wife and mother while burying her
calamitous past. All their roads collide in one chaotic
event that exposes their true selves. Inspired by Cullen’s
reporting as a staff writer for Time magazine, Pastors’
Wives is a dramatic portrayal of the private lives of
pastors’ wives, caught between the demands of faith,
marriage, duty, and love.