Book Review: The Gay Preacher’s Wife

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, March 2017 Issue.

The flowers were a very nice touch. They greeted you from the kitchen counter just as you got home. They were followed by a romantic dinner, candlelight conversation and a quiet evening at home.

It was a gift from your spouse, who often has surprises for you. But, as in the book The Gay Preacher’s Wife by Lydia Meredith, some surprises aren’t so welcome.

Born into a large southern family, Lydia had a “strict Christian upbringing” that kept her somewhat sheltered until she went to college. Her first year at Vanderbilt, she says, was “a real culture shock,” in part because she’d had little experience with dating and no experience with sex.

That changed at college, and so did Lydia. Gone was the scared little mouse, replaced by a confident young woman who landed a high-paying job, bought her own home and, unfortunately, dealt with racism in the workplace. Still, it was a good life but Lydia was lonely, and she prayed to God for someone to love.

God, she says, told her that Dennis Meredith would be her husband.

Lydia Meredith courtesy photo.

Lydia Meredith courtesy photo.

That was an odd notion, since Lydia had had little contact with her church’s youth pastor. He was a charismatic preacher and she wasn’t sure she liked the way he spoke from the pulpit. She’d barely even acknowledged that he existed but from then on, she says, “I could not take my … mind off this man … ”

She was not, therefore, surprised when Dennis asked her out.

Their romance was not without its problems.

Lydia says he was not her type, that she wanted someone to whom she could “marry up.” She didn’t want to be a preacher’s wife like the “miserable” First Lady of her childhood church. Still, Lydia married Dennis, settled down and things got better before they got worse.

Shortly after their third son started school, Lydia began “to see some changes in Dennis … but I couldn’t put my finger on it.” He seemed preoccupied, and she blamed their harried life until she found a gay porn video and Dennis admitted to her that he was bisexual, maybe gay. He was sleeping with men – lots of them – and Lydia began practicing “denial, suppression and avoidance!”

Until she couldn’t any longer …

There’s a really good story inside The Gay Preacher’s Wife. Somewhere.

Lydia goes off topic so often that readers will need to be light on their toes, so to speak. When her (not altogether unusual) story is told chronologically, it’s very good – Lydia can be outraged and outrageous, all in the same paragraph – but random, seemingly irrelevant bits found between those linear parts can ruin the mood imparted. Worse, it takes a minute to get back into the spirit of what was being said, somewhat like trying to make sense of three simultaneous TV shows.

Which leads to this: there’s a lot of drama in this book, which is tiresome. If you can overlook all that, you’ll like The Gay Preacher’s Wife.

The Gay Preacher’s Wife by Lydia Meredith.
Gallery Books, 2016 | $16.