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The League of Lilith: A thriller with soul

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By mother and son duo Rosalie Sugrue & Troy Sugrue

Sarai, a Biblical Studies lecturer, learns a great and terrible truth – a core knowledge she must impart to a successor. Will she choose society wife, Jen, or bondage and discipline prostitute Kat? The lives of these two women collide in unexpected ways around Sarai, while in the wings lurk a coven of Wiccan witches, and the dark desires and dealings that threaten Jen’s husband, Wilkin. To what lengths will he go to get the heir he desperately desires?

Has Womenkind surrendered its sacred duty? Does Sarai know the secret to the world’s survival or has a life of radical feminism driven her insane?

Set in pre-quake Christchurch, The League of Lilith is an explosive novel that builds relentlessly to a dramatic climax.


Review by Rev John Meredith December 2020

Rosalie Sugrue is a very experienced writer and, for this book, is joined by her son, Troy.

There are two inter-related groups of characters in the story. One is a group studying a tertiary level paper on ‘Biblical Text and Women.’ Readers are invited to share with the students as they are exposed to the voices of biblical women that have been submerged within the text. These are voices that have been silenced by being interpreted by those who have sought to maintain biblical support for the dominance of men in church and society; but as Professor of Divinity Ann Loades has said, only feminist interpretation (of the Bible) can begin to restore the dignity of women.

The other group is a group of Wiccan witches who affirm female identity as an essential aspect of wholesome life. It is unfortunate that ‘witches’ have come to be identified as figures of malign intent as, for example, in many children’s stories and in Macbeth. Witches have always evoked suspicion because they have questioned tradition. Wiccan witches should be seen, however, as devotees of a non-theistic religion emphasising the importance of living in harmony with nature. In this sense they embrace environmental principles for a healthy world and universal goodwill.

Lilith is a mythological figure affirming the universal oneness of creation where there are no boundaries of gender, ignorance, suspicion, desire to control others or to shape the world according to a selfish human plan. Ultimately there can be no hard lines separating the league of Lilith from the biblical concept of divine creativity. As one reads this book subtle theological insights keep emerging.

On the back cover Margaret Mayman has written: This is an intriguing story of a non-dominant culture that dips into the myth of Lilith and provides readers with another lens on patriarchal religion. … Powerful friendships among the women transcend the barriers of class and race. The novel draws on current feminist biblical interpretation that is theologically sound without being didactic. An enthralling yarn which would be ideal for book group discussion.

It may also challenge readers to reappraise long-held views and, without undue effort, to think more open-mindedly.


Praise for the print edition

“This is a page-turning book, an intriguing story of a nondominant culture that dips into the myth of Lilith and provides readers with another lens on patriarchal religion. Likable and unlikable, the characters are engaging. Powerful friendships among the women transcend barriers of class and race. The novel draws on current feminist Biblical interpretation in a way that is theologically sound without being didactic. An enthralling yarn, which would be ideal for book group discussion.” Rev Dr Margaret Mayman, St Andrew’s on The Terrace, Wellington

“…a book that really captures my interest and engages my head and my heart… Do you recognise Lilith of the title? In Jewish mythology she was Adam’s first wife, having been created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam but who left Eden because she refused to become subservient to him. Alternatively, Lilith was regarded as a demon. Many of the writers who contributed to the development of modern-day Wicca express special reverence for Lilith, regarding her as the embodiment of the Goddess and protector of women but who subsequently became demonised due to the rise of patriarchy.

The League of Lilith interweaves themes of women, sexuality, pregnancy and childbirth with chauvinism, and contrasts contemporary attitudes to women with those of the Bible. The story concerns the lives of women from very different backgrounds and their male partners, whose paths intersect in a suspenseful chronicle of relationships. It explores ‘a world obsessed with power and control and the abandonment of the ancient, sacred duty of women.’ The multi-layered, interwoven story is beautifully structured and maintains a cracking pace, with different strands of contemporaneous action intriguingly counter-pointed, while passages of reminiscence inform the motivations of the characters.

The contrasting of Christian, Biblical and Wiccan stories, liturgies and values draws on academic, Biblical and feminist research but the authors neither preach nor denigrate any particular faith message. They also indulge in an occasional bit of fantasy. This is, after all, a novel and not a lecture. As they state, ‘…the scholarship is sound and we hope it gives people food for thought and leads some to realise there are enlightened ways of looking at Scripture, and of course, that caring relationships are the best of human values.’

The League of Lilith is a ripping good yarn but, at the same time, it can stand up proudly among the best of international fiction of relationships, religion and suspense. This is a book to enjoy reading yourself, and which would also make an ideal Christmas gift for someone who enjoys a good story along with concepts to ponder.” Shirley Dixon, published in Touchstone, November 2011.


About the Author

Rosalie Reynolds Sugrue is a fifth generation West Coaster. Both her parents being fourth generation Coasters whose forebears came seeking gold. Rosalie’s great grandfather, James Reynolds, was a local preacher from Cornwall who preached to miners on the beaches and helped establish the first Methodist church in Hokitika. His wife, Eliza, signed the petition that gave women the vote.

Rosalie’s mother Elva Reynolds was a Methodist Deacon and also a lay preacher. Rosalie is a past president of the NZ Lay Preachers’ Association, and the inaugural facilitator of the Methodist Lay Preachers Network 2004, serving as a co-facilitator until 2008. She has led hundreds of church services in New Zealand and the UK. She has also led rest home services, family services, cafe style worship, house blessings and devotions in many other situations.

A wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and author now retired Rosalie has worked as a psychiatric nurse, teacher and motellier.

She has been active in Jaycees, the Methodist Women’s Fellowship, the Community of Women and Men in Church and Society, National Council of Women, the Churches’ Agency on Social Issues, Victim Support and U3A.

She continues an active role as a lay preacher leading one to three services every month in a variety of churches.
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