Book: Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin (2008)

Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Chick Lit, Christian Fiction

Preferred Reading Environment: The Bible belt

Reading Accoutrements: Steak (cooked rare) and potatoes

Content Notes: This book contains Bullying/Vicious Rumor Spreading, Adultery, and other generally salacious behavior.

I was walking through Barnes & Noble the other day looking for a good deal and I came upon a table marked 2 for $8. Usually there isn’t anything to catch my interest on this table – I’ve either already read the book or it’s old enough that I made the decision not to read it a long time ago. This time, though, I was in luck. Good Christian Bitches, by Kim Gatlin, caught my eye almost right off the bat and the blurb on the back held my interest. I decided to read and review it immediately.

Amanda Vaughn grew up in the super-ritzy, upper class neighborhood of Hillside Park in Dallas, Texas. She attended a very well-funded high school, sparkled at the society functions, and was generally a spoiled rich teenager/young adult. After graduating, Amanda got married and moved with her husband to California where he became a successful real estate mogul and they had two children. Then, she caught her husband cheating on her…a lot. Finally deciding that she’d had enough, Amanda divorced her husband and moved with her two children back to Hillside Park.

The plot of this book begins on the day Amanda and her kids move into their rental house. Amanda stops at Hillside Park Presbyterian to kill some time and walks into a bible study in progress. The topic of the bible study? Gossip and its evils. Yet, as the women close their pious meeting with prayers for friends and family, it becomes clear that these “prayers” are really just ways to spread rumors. As the book progresses, many of Amanda’s old friends, neighbors, and fellow church members are sugary sweet to her face while they viciously spread lies behind her back.

Amanda’s children are struggling to adjust to their new home, Amanda herself is struggling to plan the charity ball that she was roped into chairing (which is made all the more difficult because the previous chair of the ball embezzled funds), and to top it all off, some secret admirer is sending her outrageously lavish gifts – all while the voracious rumor mill gets progressively more diabolical.

Honestly, this whole book kind of reads like an episode of Desperate Housewives of Dallas or something. Some of the shenanigans that take place in this plot made me say, “People don’t think or act that way in real life!” Maybe that’s because my reality is so incredibly detached from such a financially comfortable lifestyle – where losing a $98,000 gift card isn’t something one worries too much about. I mean, several of the women in the neighborhood decided to put Amanda in charge of a multimillion dollar charity organization so that she would be too busy to accept dates from the eligible bachelors in town, thereby increasing their own prospects in the dating game. Who does that???

The book starts out from the viewpoint of Amanda, but often the perspective changes to other women in Amanda’s social circle. Any time a new character enters a scene, their clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories are immediately inventoried and tabulated to ensure that the correct amount of wealth was demonstrated. Women who didn’t grow up in Hillside Park struggle to fit in so that they can find a wealthy husband and “belong” in the neighborhood with the rest of the snobs…I mean, ladies…The only goal of the women in this book (with the exception of Amanda) seems to be: “Be married to a man who can afford my luxurious lifestyle in Hillside Park, where I can shop for expensive new toys and lunch with the other ladies in my social circle.”

Amanda, on the other hand, just wants to live in the welcoming, Christian world where she remembers growing up. In fact, she moved to Hillside Park from Southern California because she felt that the only God people worshiped on the west coast was vegan and organic foods. (Yes, there are a lot of digs at west coast culture in this book – especially when it comes to food.) Her decisions are based mostly on the fact that she doesn’t want to make new enemies in her old neighborhood, so she allows the gossip and rumors to roll off her back. When her children are the next to be attacked by the women of Hillside Park, Amanda decides enough is enough, but she doesn’t really express rage or even anger. My one complaint about Amanda is that she seemed a little one-dimensional: she wants to forgive and move on so that she could go about her life and that is the only emotion you get out of her – despite the fact that her ex-husband is a skeezeball, despite the fact that her daughter is called anorexic, and even despite the fact that her son ends up in the hospital.

What I find most interesting is that, given some of the things Amanda says about her past, she used to be just as ridiculously self-centered and bitchy. Heck, she once threw a fit because her parents gave her an expensive watch for her birthday instead of a Mercedes. On more than one occasion, she acknowledges the fact that she and her friends were all about the glamorous lifestyle and one-upmanship. She and her mom didn’t get along when Amanda was growing up; her parents’ marriage was a lot like Amanda’s – he cheated on her repeatedly and with no remorse – and both Amanda and her mother were absorbed in their own problems. When Amanda moved back, there was a lot of tension between the two until they had a heart-to-heart about their new lives as single women. By the end of the book, Amanda’s relationship with her mother is #LifeGoals.

Amanda herself coins the term Good Christian Bitches to describe her social circle, saying, “You can be a good Christian. Or you can be a bitch. But you can’t be a good Christian bitch.” Yet, she truly believes that being in Dallas is better for her family because the people have those all-important Christian ideals she was raised with. Seems like her reasoning is flawed to me. Gatlin both condemns judgement (a sort of “remove the plank from your own eye before you remove the speck from your brother’s” message) and perpetuates it with her digs at the West coast and the assumptions that being a good person means you go to church every Sunday.

The overarching themes of this book – gossip, vanity, and good Christianity – are good for sparking a bible study or just a “good humanity” discussion, but I think the book itself got a little too hyperbolic to be taken very seriously. The straight up insanity that was demonstrated and allowed to continue by the characters in this book went beyond belief for me and the book lost some of its power. Add to that the preachy nature of the last two chapters, and by the end of the book I just wanted the author to get off her soapbox and show me the rest of the story instead of telling me how I should feel. As a result of the sermon, the end of the actual plot felt rushed and sloppy, which was disappointing because I enjoyed reading this book from an escapism standpoint – it made me feel better knowing my life would never be that absurd.

Have you ever had a book make you feel better about your life? Tell me about it in the comments!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.