When a participant in a local dining club in Mason, Mo., reveals a personal secret over dinner, the gathering is suddenly transformed into a "safe space": members of the group share not only a weekly feast, but begin to confess dilemmas from their private lives. Elizabeth Berg's illuminating novel The Confession Club brings together a small group of women--ages 20 to their 70s--who maintain an oath of confidentiality as they voice their sins, burdens, inadequacies and shameful secrets, offering each other opinions and advice without judgment. Among the members are a preacher's wife, who is a kleptomaniac; a woman remorseful over the way she chronically lied to her parents during adolescence; and another who finds herself attracted to an exhibitionist.
New additions to the group include some beloved characters from Berg's prior novels, including Iris Winters, from Night of Miracles, a divorcée who runs a baking school out of her home. She falls for a handsome, bright, high-functioning--yet homeless--Vietnam veteran with PTSD. And Maddy Harris, introduced in The Story of Arthur Truluv, is a married mother who returns to town to regroup and reconcile feelings from the past that prohibit her from sharing her soul with her husband.
Readers don't need to be familiar with Berg's prior books in the Mason series to enjoy this one--a tenderhearted, at times philosophical, patchwork quilt of stories. Berg extols the benefits of these unlikely people forming a bond and a community of trust and friendship that changes their lives for the better. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines