When a well-known preacher and bestselling nonfiction author (Woman, Thou Art Loosed!) tries his hand at fiction, the result is unfortunately predictable—a heavy dose of sermonizing. Jakes frames his contemporary novel around the seasons of life, telling the story from the perspectives of three African-American women who work together in an office, and a fourth, older woman who acts as a mentor to the youngest. The hip, well-manicured Michelle swears she will "never be under any man's thumb," yet her abusive past is revisited upon her by the men she finds attractive. Tonya loves the Lord, but the death of one son and the trials of single parenting have taken their toll. Delores is in control at the office, but her 13-year-old granddaughter's heartbreaking troubles are about to wreck her own carefully constructed facade. Meanwhile, the aged Miz Ida has her hands full as a sounding board for Michelle and helping any "strays" who cross her path. The novel is marred by overwriting, heavy dialogue, long sermons, an annoying use of footnotes (including a citation of Jakes's own nonfiction work) and the author's self-promoting product endorsements (one character gives another a Woman, Thou Art Loosed!
Bible). Also, it's ironic that a novel that's supposed to be about strong women shows those women almost always being rescued or straightened out by men. However, the book offers sound moral lessons for Christians and encouragement for single mothers. (July)