If you've been wanting to give chick-lit a try but didn't know where to start, this is your book. EARTH TO BETSY, the follow-up to HEAVENS TO BETSY, is Beth Pattillo's fun yet thoughtful take on the perils of being female, single, and a clergywoman with all the attendant angst that makes for an enjoyable read.
In the first installment, Betsy struggled with her calling to the pastorate, her surprising sudden romantic sparks for her best guy friend David (also a minister), and her wardrobe, which went from frumpy to fashion-plate and now hovers somewhere in the normal range. The 30-something Reverend Betsy Blessing is back in full force here, this time contemplating a no-frills wedding with her best friend David Swenson and an offer to be senior minister of Church of the Shepherd in downtown Nashville. But chaos --- of course! --- is nipping at her heels. HEAVENS TO BETSY finds Pattillo digging a little deeper into the characters' lives, exploring their motivations and examining their sometimes misguided good intentions that go awry.
After a stint as interim minister at the dying downtown church, Betsy is on the brink of some big decisions. Moving the crumbling building's congregation to the suburbs could mean the chance to pastor a vibrant, growing congregation of young families with money, rather than the difficult declining group of mostly senior citizens who are the last hold-outs at Church of the Shepherd (not to mention the shabbiest member, "Booger," a homeless street person who frequents the services and serves as Betsy's conscience). Betsy has convinced herself --- and the church board --- that the move is all for the best of the congregation. But are her motives really pure? And the too-good-to-be-true offer for the church property has her wondering….
Meanwhile, Pattillo develops Betsy's romantic relationship with David, which goes from first date to a planned quickie wedding in almost no pages flat. David's demanding mother, the editor of Budget Bride magazine, has big plans for the wedding, which include spending the least amount of money possible. Chipped china, an eBay engagement ring that could double for an Easter basket, and styrofoam-packing peanuts standing in for snow at a summer wedding ceremony figure heavily in her mother-in-law's plans. And suddenly, David is overly busy with problems at his own church.
Or is he? When Betsy discovers David has been meeting with his old fiancée, Jennifer, her doubts about her upcoming nuptials begin to multiply. And David guards a secret that could jeopardize their relationship. But with two pastors juggling the demands of two different congregations, will they have a chance to work out their difficulties?
Pattillo is an ordained minister in the Christian Church, and her insider's view of the workings of church boards and quirky congregations lends authenticity to the words she writes. Readers are always fascinated by the lives of clergy (think of Susan Howatch's Starbridge series or Agatha Christie's vicar's wife), and although Pattillo handles her clergy with a lighter hand, they have the added cachet of her knowledge of the particular issues that go with being female and called by God to ministry.
This is the best sort of chick-lit: lightweight humor, thoughtful dilemmas, strong female characters who are still feminine, and some good soul-searching moments that keep the novel grounded. It's a smooth read from the first to last page. Yes, you'll have to suspend disbelief in a few places, but hey folks --- that's chick-lit! Kudos to Pattillo for creating a strong female pastor character. And double kudos for her inclusion of an interracial dating scenario in the novel, a plot element that rarely finds its way into the realm of Christian fiction. Chick-lit fans, don't miss this one!
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