Penguin Pr. Apr. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780593300053. $27. F
The award-winning Huneven (Off Course) has written a fictional memoir narrated by Dana Potowski, a restaurant critic and food writer in Altadena, CA. Despite her successes, Dana feels stalled in a career she chose instead of finishing seminary studies. When the beloved minister at her Unitarian Universalist church retires, Dana becomes the recorder on the selection committee to search for a new minister; only her husband, Jack, knows that she’s secretly there to gather material for her next book. Diverse in terms of race and age, the committee of eight is the church in miniature; for one long year, they meet, talk, go on retreats, and have group-building exercises. Personalities unfold and alliances form and break up as they follow the church handbook in their quest to find a new minister. They want someone experienced and interested in social justice, and most members want a woman. The final vote is rancorous, and intractable activists wear everyone down, splitting longtime friendships. Is the chosen candidate the best for their church? Dana is too busy editing her book about the search to find out.
VERDICT Huneven’s breezy style carries the plot, which is peppered with standout characters guaranteed to resemble someone readers know, and she addresses church philosophy with a light touch that many will appreciate.
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