I was looking for a new book to listen to on Audible when I discovered Rush by Lisa Patton. Being that it was August and many universities and colleges around the country were knees deep in sorority recruitment – what used to be known in the good ol’ days as Rush – the timing seemed right. It was a new release by an author that was new to me, so I quickly downloaded the book and prepared to go down memory lane.
Set in Oxford, Mississippi at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), the southern references are strong. A big southern state school with a dominant Greek life and crazy football fans was totally my college experience at the University of Oklahoma. Yes, this story is about how crazy sorority life can be in the south, but the message is much, much bigger and much more important.
The setting definitely plays such an important role in the story, but it is the diverse characters that made this book so special. I immediately fell in love with Ms. Pearl, the Alpha Delta Beta housekeeper who refers to all of the girls in the house as “her babies”, as well as Cali Watkins, the girl from small-town Mississippi who wants nothing more than to pledge a sorority and be a part of something bigger than herself. There’s an overly involved alum, House Corp President Lilith Whitmore, who will immediately become the character that you love to hate, and Wilda Woodcock, an empty-nester and sorority alum that finds herself in the middle of a rush-induced nightmare. The characters are rich, the situations are real, and they all hooked me from the get-go.
The bigger story, however, revolves around Ms. Pearl. Ms. Pearl and her co-workers have worked for Alpha Delta Beta for years for very little pay and with no health insurance. Battling wanting more for herself but not wanting to leave the girls she truly loves, Ms. Pearl decides to apply to be the new house director. There has never been a black house director at Alpha Delt before, or any other sorority at Ole Miss for that matter. Although very qualified, Lilith Whitmore feels otherwise about Ms. Pearl’s being what’s best for her beloved Alpha Delt. It’s not until the girls in the sorority find out what is happening, they decide to take matters into their own hands, that things begin to change.
It’s difficult to review this book and not give everything away. Let me simply say, I loved this book. It made me happy. Several times I had lumps in my throat and felt the tears creepy up, all for happy reasons. And several times I wanted to punch certain characters in the face. When an author brings out those kinds of emotions in you, well that’s a true sign of a 5-star book. When I finished it I immediately wanted to ask the author to write a sequel.
Yes, this book is about a sorority, but the sorority is simply the backdrop that the author creatively uses for addressing a bigger topic. I appreciated how the author handled issues like social class and racism without shoving it down your throat. Patton doesn’t pussyfoot around the issues but instead created a story where characters are forced to confront and address their views about race that have been long embedded in their lives and histories. The characters aren’t perfect and their reactions and attitudes aren’t always perfect either. But what I loved most was that at the end of the story, there was hope. There was hope that fight for change was plausible, and reasonable, and achievable. This book had a positive, hopeful, happy ending, which, let’s face, we don’t get much in the real world these days. It was refreshing!
Let me put it this way, I loved the book so much that even though I had listened to it on Audible, I recently ordered a copy because I want it in my home library. All the love and all the feels for Lisa Patton and Rush! Highly recommend!
Rush by Lisa Patton
Published by St. Martin’s Press, August 21, 2018
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Where I read: All over the house, listening on Audible
Stephenie’s Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars