The Bunko Babes, A Review

From page one I really tried to like “The Bunko Babes” by Leah Starr Baker. The book is an unusual blend of contemporary Christian fiction meets chick-lit. Think Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood finds religion. (How’s that for a 5-second tagline?) Given my diverse blend of interests and philosophies, it sounded like just the type of book I’d love—and tell my friends about.

You’d also think, based on this somewhat contradictory description that the book may not appeal to everyone. Certainly, some of my fellow BlogStop Book Tours reviewers, including Julie Fletcher at Not Enough Coffee, opened the seafoam green cover with skepticism, only to find within an endearing—and enduring--tale.

The Christian overtones are not evangelistic and should not turn off mainstream readers. The Bunko Babes does provide enthusiasts of Christian literature a unique book that addresses their values and ideals. The Bunko Babes happen to be Christian and, for the most part, exemplify these values throughout the book, but this does not detract from the story.

The intricate yet well-thought-out plot emphasizes life challenges, friendship and growth. When the book begins, lead character Becca Thornton has “plenty of room to grow,” as fellow BlogStop blogger Carolyn Erickson so eloquently and diplomatically phrases it in her own review at Mama Needs a Book Contract.

The Bunko Babes is about a group of eight women at varying stages of their lives with two common bonds: Bunko and friendship. The women meet weekly to play Bunko, a game of chance played with three dice, and, while each week a new winner is crowned, so much more occurs at these important get-togethers.

The women struggle with such issues as pregnancy, infertility, infidelity, and seeing a husband sent off to war. The weekly Bunko games become the glue that holds their lives together, their counseling sessions, and their escape.

When Becca starts developing odd physical symptoms and ailments, the suspense builds, as we wonder what’s wrong. Later, when we find out she is diagnosed with lupus, we keep reading to see how she will handle her debilitating illness. Just as the main character wonders about her own survival, so do we.

Sounds pretty good, right? Eight women, lots of laugh, suspense, drama, strong female characters. What’s not to like?

In spite of the main character’s declarations about how important her friends are to her, Becca’s actions in the beginning don’t show this to be the case. Instead, she comes off as self-centered, shallow, and a bit petty; she judges her friends for their clothes and how they keep their houses and seems to spend an inordinate amount of time describing everyone’s outfits, including her own. It’s hard to get into a book when the main character grates on your nerves. I had to keep reminding myself that the writer is not the character and Becca Thornton was created this way—to be realistic and flawed.

Nevertheless, if Becca were real and if I were one of her seven Bunko Babe pals, I’d be the first one to tell her to get over herself. Yes, Lupus is a terrible illness, but the situations her friends were going through were no less challenging, and Becca says some very cruel things, particularly to her best friend Jessica. I know books’ heroines are supposed to be flawed, but I failed to find any redeeming qualities in Becca throughout most of the book. Becca becomes a modern anti-hero, but even anti-heroes (Hell Tanner of Damnation Alley comes to mind as one of my favorites) must be likeable, even as their actions are immoral. Becca’s character has the opposite issue; she’s not exactly evil in a compelling way, but she’s not easy to like, either.

Her redemption may be in her brutal honesty and self-exploration. Even though I may not like the petty character traits she reveals, it’s hard to fault her for her telling the truth.

She’s honest to a flaw—with the readers, with her friends… The only one Becca seemed to lie to was herself, by not seeing how un-Christian and detestable her thoughts and actions were. Still, it did leave plenty of room for the character to grow.

I also discovered some literary flaws in the book. As these are more pet peeves of mine than anything else, it seems fair to say I just didn’t enjoy the author’s style, rich with adjectives and providing little variance in the sentence structure. But that’s okay. I don’t like Danielle Steele’s style either, but she tells a page-turner of a story, and has the seven figure sales of her books to prove it! Many people fault Dan Brown’s literary abilities (personally, I enjoy his writing) but he still sells millions of books, too.

Unfortunately, The Bunko Babes’ ending felt rushed; we didn’t really get to see or immerse ourselves in Becca’s new personality, so I’m left wondering if the character’s change will be permanent. However, this is an important point. Long after I closed the book—for all certain aspects annoyed me—I found myself thinking about it, discussing it with others, even discussing it with the author in a blog comment conversation.

For someone who reads as much as I do, it’s not often that I come across a book that impacts my life and has me thinking about it long after I’ve tucked it away on an overstuffed bookshelf. And that, to me, is the mark of a worthwhile read. While I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed The Bunko Babes, I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it and feel as if my life has been enriched by the experience.

This is one of the beautiful things about Mary Lewis' Blog Stop Book Tours; they are a great way to introduce readers, and the reviewers, to a diverse blend of interesting titles we may not otherwise pick up. I'm proud to be a small part of this book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour, and drop by the home of Blog Stop Book Tours, too.

July 1 - Not Enough Coffee

July 3 - Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

July 7 - Mom Is Just A Nickname

July 11 - Mama Needs A Book Contract

July 14 - Something She Wrote

July 16 - Virtual Wordsmith

July 18 - Writing From Kiddom

July 23 - Anything That Pays… A Freelance Writer’s Blog

July 25 - From The Cheap Seats

July 28 - A Mama’s Rant