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  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOK REVIEW The Gay Preacher's Wife
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
2017-10-03

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By Lydia Meredith. $16; Gallery Books; 244 pages

The flowers were a very nice touch.

They greeted you from the kitchen counter just as you got home, and were followed by a romantic dinner, candlelight conversation, and a quiet evening at home. It was a gift from your spouse, who often has many surprises for you. But, as in the new book The Gay Preacher's Wife, by Lydia Meredith, some surprises aren't so welcome.

Born into a large Southern family, Meredith had a "strict Christian upbringing" that kept her somewhat sheltered until she went to college. Her first year at Vanderbilt University, she says, was "a real culture shock"—in part, because she'd had little experience with dating and no experience with sex.

That changed at college, and so did Meredith. Gone was the scared little mouse, replaced by a confident young woman who landed a high-paying job, bought her own home, and dealt with racism in the workplace. It was a good life but Meredith was lonely, and she prayed to God for someone to love.

God, she says, told her that Dennis Meredith would be her husband.

That was an odd notion, since Meredith had had little contact with her church's youth pastor. He was a charismatic preacher and she wasn't sure she liked the way he spoke from the pulpit. She'd barely even acknowledged that he existed but from then on, she says, "I could not take my… mind off this man…"

She was not, therefore, surprised when Dennis asked her out.

Their romance was not without its problems.

Meredith says he was not her type, that she wanted someone to whom she could "marry up." She didn't want to be a preacher's wife like the "miserable" first lady of her childhood church. Still, Meredith married Dennis, settled down—and things got better before they got worse.

Shortly after their third son started school, Meredith began "to see some changes in Dennis … but I couldn't put my finger on it." He seemed preoccupied, and she blamed their harried life until she found a gay porn video and Dennis admitted to Meredith that he was bisexual, maybe gay. He was sleeping with men—lots of them—and Meredith began practicing "denial, suppression, and avoidance!"

Until she couldn't any longer…

There's a really good story inside The Gay Preacher's Wife.

Somewhere.

Meredith goes off-topic so often that readers will need to be light on their toes, so to speak. When her ( not altogether unusual ) story is told chronologically, it's very good—Meredith can be outraged and outrageous, all in the same paragraph—but random, seemingly irrelevant bits found between those linear parts can ruin the mood imparted. Worse, it takes a minute to get back into the spirit of what was being said, somewhat like trying to make sense of three simultaneous TV shows.

Which leads to this: There's a lot of drama in this book, which is tiresome. If you can overlook all that, you'll like The Gay Preacher's Wife. If not, well, you won't want to touch it.

Want more? Then look for God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, by Matthew Vines; or Their Own Receive Them Not: African American Lesbians and Gays in Black Churches, by Horace L. Griffin.


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