By Amy Fish
Heavenly Father (the Jewish one), thank you for bringing to me The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell (April 2019, Black Rose Writing) for review. At first, I thought it would be tricky, given that I have no background knowledge of this faith, but I quickly got caught up in the story as the narrator clarified any religious technicality that came up. Help me explain to future readers that while there are many acts of graphic nudity and sexuality, they are necessary for the plot. For example, Ronna takes us through her wild sex with Vlad “I needed to be fucked well, to feel heat and passion and desire,” which is radically different from her intimacy with her husband Roger “we had obligatory sex I was no longer in the mood for.” While this may be uncomfortable to read at first, let us accept that the narrator selected specific incidents to showcase her emotional state at the time.
Please join me in recognizing the first theme of this book and let us say together: Feeling Trapped. Help me to capture some of the desperation the narrator felt when, as a teenager, her mom had to ask her dad for permission for her to get to school five minutes early to chat with her new friends. She must have felt like a caged animal, unable to make any decisions on her own or enjoy even the smallest of freedoms. This theme of feeling cornered continues throughout the book, as the narrator tells us, she stated unto her husband and his mother: “’I want a divorce. From both of you’,… but instead… I retreated, dismissed, wondering how much longer I could stay married.” We recognize here, oh Lord, a person who does not feel that her circumstances will ever change.
Let us also rejoice in the second theme of the book, Oh Reader, and that is: Resourcefulness. For example, when she tires of her long hair and is forbidden from cutting it, the narrator used electric rollers to damage the hair until it breaks off. Her father was furious, yet fifteen-year-old Ronna continued to sleep with hot curlers until her broken hair framed her face. We pause here to admire the problem-solving abilities of our young narrator, and together we recognize that she will eventually get out of this lifestyle even though she does not know it yet.
May we understand that hair continues to be a major topic in this book, including the explanation of what it means to “rat” your hair. To tease hair up enough, women would collect old hair from their brushes and stuff them into the toes of old stockings, cut and tie the stockings and use the rat-looking bag of hair to extend the height of their bouffant-dos. I had often wondered about this, Dear Lord, and I thank Ronna for her definition.
Let us together appreciate that while Feeling Trapped and Being Resourceful tend to contradict each other, in this book they are the driving forces that propel the story forward, along with another theme in the book, let us say in unison: Loneliness. As the narrator states: “The realization occurred to me that if I died in my bed, no one would come looking.” After she marries, the situation does not improve, “Twenty years into a near-sexless marriage, I was quite literally going nuts from loneliness and desire.” The story ends with more hopeful imagery as the narrator encourages herself to relax and let go.
It is our hope, Dear Reader, that this book has allowed her to do just that.