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Book Review: The Bunko Babes by Leah Starr Baker

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The Bunko Babes is written from the perspective of Becca, a 37-year-old mother of 13-year-old twins. The story begins on a weekly Bunko (a dice game) night, this one being held at Becca’s home with an “Under the Sea” theme.

We are introduced to her friends from childhood, Madison, Jessica, Autumn and Kathleen who have remained close through these Bunko games. We also meet the newer friends, Karen, Michelle and Mercedes. These women are bonded together spiritually and emotionally, and it is ultimately their faith which pulls them through the hard times.

With eight women to get to know, in addition to mothers, husbands, children and careers, the story is initially difficult to follow. I believe this is due to the fact that the novel begins as if the reader has been attending these games since the outset. Real life does not pause for the reader to catch up, and neither does this book. That is what eventually makes it so realistic.

During this first game, we discover that Becca’s mother has just gotten engaged, much to Becca’s horror. Becca was extremely close to her father, who has not yet been dead a year and she cannot accept that her mother would do this to her father.

Jessica discovers that her fallopian tubes are scarred irreparably by an infection and she cannot have children. Further along in the book we find out that Jessica and Becca believe that this infection was the result of the abortion she had when she was 16. We also discover that Becca has been holding a grudge against Jessica for having engaged in premarital sex and its subsequent consequences. Becca’s faith has strong rules which she feels that Jessica violated.

Madison discovers her husband is cheating on her, but does not share it with her friends until he ultimately moves out.

These women, who meet weekly and love each other deeply, but keep a lot of secrets from one another. It is an interesting story because, even when they need each other the most, they keep their struggles to themselves. Becca begins having strange and eventually debilitating physical symptoms. She does not tell her friends until nearly the end of the book.

Knowing something is wrong with Becca that she won’t share upsets Jessica, because they are supposed to be best friends. However, Jessica has been keeping a secret of her own for 20 years regarding that abortion. Jessica also has some feelings of her own regarding Becca’s mother’s impending marriage that she can’t share.

Jessica and Becca see Madison’s husband out to lunch with “the trollop” and they therefore suspect why Madison appears so overwhelmed, but nobody says anything to anyone else.

The pain these women endure, without sharing, is intense. Still they go on having weekly Bunko theme parties where they can let off a little steam.

The healthiest all-around character in this book is Autumn. Autumn has eight kids, is completely organic and home schools her kids from their farm house. In many ways, she seems to be their touchstone. Instead of elaborate decorations on Bunko at her house, she just hangs a sombrero from a light fixture. Who has the time to decorate when you have a passel of kids? She’s a great character.

The best aspect of this book, however, is Becca’s self-reflection. During her illness she must examine her own faults. While she is deeply spiritual, she is also very judgmental. Becca eventually asks a friend, Mercedes, to help her through the worst of the illness and then she begins to resent Mercedes for being everything that she cannot be. She cannot accept her mother’s fiancé because Becca still cries when she thinks about her father. Her resentment, selfishness and judgmental feelings are the only things she can think about when she is no longer able to be active. It is through some deep insight and self-help that Becca grows physically, spiritually and emotionally.

The only part of the story that let me down was that Jessica is forgiven for her “sin” at 16 because it was through incest that she got pregnant. I really hate it when something “unforgivable” gets forgiven on a technicality. It would have been more spiritually maturing and meaningful for Becca to have understood that her harsh judgment of her closest friend over the past 20 years was not in keeping with Christian practice. Instead, this part of the story falls flat.

I enjoyed this book and I appreciate the Christian basis. I really liked the funny and honest way Becca looks at herself. My favorite line is, “Truthfully, aside from a stubborn twenty pounds that refuse to come off without diet and exercise, I’m aging quite well.”

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About Alexandria Jackson

  • Thanks for the review. I am thrilled that you enjoyed “The Bunko Babes”. It is a story that comes from my heart and it is wonderful when I hear that others are getting pleasure from my work. Keep writing and reviewing. I’ve found a new site to search before purchasing my next read. Blessings to you and yours Alexandria.