Thursday, April 17, 2014

Church Folk by Michele Andrea Bowen

4 of 5 stars ****

Michele Andrea Bowen's writing captures the era and the culture beautifully while Denise Burse narrates the unfolding events with the style and flavor of an American Southern town during the story's timeline. 

The story puts the reader in Mississippi among people who may remind them of those with whom they grew up, interacted, or worked. If it does not, this reader can attest to the feelings of authenticity and charm these people bring to the story.

Church Folk is an enjoyable read/listen about a black community in Mississippi circa 1961-1963. The plot centers around a young, handsome, black man, Rev Theophilus Simmons, and his courtship of Essie, a young, good, black woman worthy of marrying. The story evolves through the characters' behavior with one another during the days of Civil Rights. Some of the male minor characters, including those of the cloth, use women in the community as objects to satisfy their sexual urges which makes them feel desirable and important. As one elder female citizen points out, some women think that having sex with a man of God is a pathway to grace by way of his penis. This slice of life is fraught with humorous colloquialisms like this. At first, Essie questions Rev Theophilus Simmons' intentions knowing many men, especially good looking ones, like to play the field. She did not want to be a player in any man's field. This quality in Essie is one of the reasons Theophilus courts and eventually marries her. Theophilus proves to be the man Essie believes him to be by his devotion to her and his stance against the corruption in the church.