This review will focus not only on the book “The Potluck Club,” but on the whole three book series of the same name, all written by the duo of Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson. The other two books are “The Potluck Club: Trouble’s Brewing” and “The Potluck Club Takes the Cake.”
I read the first book of the series back sometime last fall. I got it from the library, along with the book “She’s All That” from the Spa Girls trilogy by Kristin Billerbeck. I had not heard of either of the series before, and only vaguely heard of the authors, but they both popped up on a “if you like this book, you might like these” kind of recommendation from Amazon. I started the series with low expectations, partly because I was very disappointed with “She’s All That” (another review for another time), and partly because it didn’t take me long to realize that most of the main characters in the book were my mother’s age, if not older, and I wasn’t sure that I would find anything appealing about it, or that I would have anything in common with the characters. I didn’t have to read very far into the first book to realize that despite the age difference, I could really relate to, and laugh and cry with, the ladies of the Potluck Club.
The series takes place in and around the small town of Summit View, Colorado, and the scenes were written so well that I could almost see the mountains and breathe in the fresh air. I especially liked the winter scenes, (even a rather frightening avalanche!) because I could just see the majestic beauty of the snow-covered terrain.
What I liked most about these books was the way the authors dealt with hard, real-life issues, even amid the laughter and crazy antics of the club ladies. Topics such as pregnancy out of wedlock, infidelity, and even abortion, were dealt with, and given the proper amounts of suffering, as well as grace under the Gospel. Other hard topics, such as adoption, inter-racial marriage in a time that did not tolerate such things, loneliness and alcoholism were dealt with equally well. The characters did not have perfect lives, did not always make good choices, and, in fact, at least one of the main characters isn’t sure she’s really a Christian at all.
The whole trilogy takes place in a short amount of time–less than a year. So much happens in each of the books that it’s hard to believe that such a short period of time is covered. Each of the six main characters has her own story, some of which are intertwined with each other. Evie deals with a long-suffering, not-so-unrequited love, and a unexpectedly pregnant niece who arrives suddenly. Newcomer to town Lisa Leann schemes to take over the potluck club, ensuring that she’s not making too many friends along the way. Goldie, the high school coach’s wife realizes that she can’t live with the knowledge of her husband’s infidelity any longer. Donna deals with a her immense dislike of Evie, (who also happens to be best friend’s with Donna’s surrogate mother), while doing her job as a deputy and dealing with hard issues from her past. Vonnie has a secret so big that even her husband and best friend are unaware of it, and she finds out that even she didn’t know the whole truth. Lizzie is solid as a rock, even as she deals with family issues of her own.
The characters were all very real–not the phony, life is all sweetness and light, rainbows and butterflies that you find in a lot of Christian fiction. They experienced real emotions, both good and bad, and had very real relationships, also both good and bad, with each other and others in town. The fringe characters were also very likable, particularly newspaper reporter Clay; David, a stranger with secret; Leigh, Evie’s niece; and Jan, the beloved pastor’s wife who was battling cancer.
I loved these books, and give them a five star rating. Although I got the first book from the library, I knew that I would want them for my personal collection, and ended getting the whole trilogy as a Christmas gift, at which point, I dove in, and finally finished the series. It was a long wait in between the first and second books! The story didn’t end with book three, however–a new series, “The Potluck Catering Club”, is being written, and the first book, “The Secret’s in the Sauce,” is scheduled to come out September 1. Given that there were many loose ends left at the end of the first trilogy, there is plenty of material left to be covered in the new series, and I’m sure other story lines will also be introduced. I already have my copy pre-ordered on Amazon–I can’t wait to find out what the ladies of the club do next!