cover image TIGER LILLIE


Lisa Samson, . . WaterBrook, $12.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-57856-598-6

This is a breakthrough novel for the award-winning Samson, whose exuberant prose, zany characters and willingness to tinker with some cherished boundaries of Christian fiction make this story memorable. One of the most enjoyable characters is Cristoff, an epileptic, celibate gay man who loves Kay Arthur Bible studies and old movies with equal passion. He's best buddies with Lillie Bauer (think My Best Friend's Wedding ), or "Tiger Lillie" as she's nicknamed, a big-bosomed, size-16 Hungarian Episcopalian asthmatic who celebrates her birthday each year by bungee jumping in an evening gown. Together, she and Cristoff run Baltimore's most offbeat business, Extreme Weddings and the Extremely Odd Occasion. The perspective snaps briskly back and forth between Lillie and her little sister, Tacy, married to the rather one-dimensional fundamentalist Rawlins McGovern, which adds intriguing tension to the plot—and some spiritually spooky moments. Samson pushes the boundaries of sexual innuendo and spirituality farther than in her earlier work, which gives her writing more authenticity. Those with weak stomachs will find a few short paragraphs about the crucifixion gruesome, and Samson's writing occasionally drifts over the top ("The humidity of the estuary coats my throat, wrapping my tongue in the taste of summer's end and the dark settling of the day"). However, this talented novelist isn't afraid to take risks, and she gets more inventive with each book. (Oct.)