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Katt’s in the Cradle
Author: Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell
Howard Books, A Division of Simon and Schuster
305 Pages
 
Katt’s in the Cradle by Ginger Kolbaba and Christy Scannell is the third in the Secrets from Lulu’s Café series published by Howard Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster).  The books are a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to cash in on the popularity of ABC’s drama Desperate Housewives, (the first book in the series was actually entitled Desperate Pastors’ Wives) toning down Wisteria Lane by making it an Evangelical address with a Midwestern accent.  The main characters are four pastors’ wives from a small town in southern Ohio, who secretly meet every other week at a café 40 miles away from their hometown.  This installation in the series deals particularly with the challenges each woman has in dealing with her parents and the specific difficulty of attempting to “honor” parents who aren’t themselves acting very honorably.  
 
 No one could accuse Kolbaba and Scannell of portraying the lives of these pastors’ wives through any kind of rose-tinted glasses.  Each woman has her own individual struggles which force her to deal with problems that range from alcoholism, mental illness, and infertility to the stress of hectic working-mom schedules, a church on the verge of a nasty split, and deeply entrenched family squabbles.   The authors go to great lengths to make sure that these women are “real”.  Lisa, Felicia, Mimi and Jennifer get angry, tired, depressed, confused, and anxious.  They make big mistakes and get into big messes. They also know how to laugh and have a good time (including sharing an ice cream sundae, “a pastors wife’s equivalent of a champagne toast”).
 
However, even though the authors make every attempt to ensure that these women are painted as realistically as possible, as characters they all remain largely flat and undeveloped throughout the book.  Kolbaba and Scannell do little to put real flesh and bones on these wives.  The fast-paced narrative relies almost entirely on dialogue (often stilted and unrealistic) and italicized “inner thoughts” to develop plot and character.  There is very little that really brings these women to life.  In addition, the plot feels contrived and is full of holes and dangling loose ends and the setting is virtually non-existent:  we know we are somewhere in small town southern Ohio, but not because the authors do anything to evoke the particularities of that place other than mentioning the proximity of Dayton and Cincinnati.   
 
Aside from the book’s significant structural flaws, another weakness is its reliance on evangelical jargon and slang, assuming its readers’ familiarity with concepts like tithing and spiritual warfare, and phrases like “committing your life to God” and “knowing Jesus as your personal Savior”.  The stated purpose of Howard Books is “to increase faith in the hearts of growing Christians, to inspire holiness in the lives of believers and to instill hope in the hearts of struggling people everywhere because he’s coming again.”  It’s possible that this book might accomplish something toward goals one and two, but it seems likely that a struggling non-Christian would feel frustrated, confused, and ultimately excluded by Katt’s In the Cradle.  

The genre of chick lit is not renowned for its high artistry, its complex characters or its compelling and evocative description.  These are books designed for busy women, to be devoured quickly and without too much commitment or thought on the part of their readers.  They are like brownies, eaten quickly and sometimes on the sly, a whole sugary pan of which can disappear without anyone really realizing it’s happening. Katt’s in the Cradle may satisfy the Christian woman’s craving for chick lit while at the same time giving her the added reassurance that at least these brownies were made with whole wheat flour.  
 
Jennifer Monroe 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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