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Book Review: The Secret Life of Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck

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Becky Miller has a lot going for her in The Secret Life of Becky Miller, a first novel by Sharon Hinck. Her three kids are adorable and funny. Her handsome salesman husband baby-sits their brood so she can attend her weekly night out with her four quirky friends. In fact he goes beyond the call of duty on those days when she does what just may turn out to be her “Big Thing For God” – lead her local church women’s ministry.

Rumor has it that the church is planning to parlay her volunteer status into a full-time paid position. Everyone knows she’s the obvious choice for the job. That plus the fact that she’s been picked as a cover feature for the April issue of Women of Vision should finally convince her glamorous toy executive sister that the life she’s chosen really is going somewhere.

Of course nothing turns out quite as Becky expects. The result is a fast-paced, humorous yet thoughtful read that will find you sneaking chapters while waiting for the kids in the school parking lot or at the dentist, checking your shoulders for spit-up and facing the temptation to peg your friends as a Heather, Lori, Doreen or Sally type.

The way Hinck has chosen to tell this rather ordinary story of a rather ordinary woman is a major part of its appeal. The first-person narration gives it that confessional feel, making us privy to Becky’s thoughts, flattering to her or not. By the end of the book I was sure I’d recognize this woman if I met her browsing meat in Safeway or folding napkins for the annual women’s rally.

Another intriguing and fun element is the vignette that begins each chapter. In this segment, never longer than a page, we join Becky in scenarios as far removed from her suburban Minnesota home as her imagination will take her — from running an orphanage in India, to surviving on an uninhabited island, to repairing a satellite in space. These scenes then segue into the action of the chapter (in the style of James Thurber’s Walter Mitty), providing a delightful brain tickle as we twig on to how the haps and mishaps of Becky’s real life reflect on and augment her daydreams.

The characters and plot of this book will definitely appeal to moms with young kids. But the book’s preoccupation with what makes a life meaningful also ensures that it would be a worthwhile read for any woman or man mulling over how to live a life of significance while navigating through the everyday maze of needy people and duty-filled circumstances.

Hinck’s skill with language (Being a mother was all about triage….The rapid ballet of the diaper change…. A grind of gears and a lurching timpani rhythm warned me. The washing machine was throwing another tantrum) and her comedic timing in telling this modern parable will delight anyone who enjoys good writing.

All that to say, don’t miss this supermom saga. It’s due to be released in June 2006.

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