I’m excited about today’s Ask BHP. I was secretly hoping someone would ask this question at some point: “What is your favorite thing about Christian fiction? And what do you dislike?”
For time’s sake, to get a list of my pet peeves in Christian fiction (or, in some cases, any fiction), just take the following points and reverse them. That way I can spend the whole blog addressing the first question with examples from some of the books I’ve recently read and enjoyed. (And yes, I picked four things I like about Christian fiction, but hey, I’m writing this blog so I get to make the rules.)
Christian fiction doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Are there novels on heavier topics where humor would be totally out-of-place? Of course! But I love that Christian fiction isn’t somber or dull, and that some writers dedicate books or entire writing careers to making people laugh.
For me, Melissa Tagg’s delightful rom-coms hit right on my sense of humor, for others, Mary Connealy’s comedy and cowboys or Jen Turano’s zany turn-of-the-century romps are just their style.
It’s a good feeling to laugh out loud, especially when the fun is clean and hope-filled. We all need it, and I’m glad that Christian fiction provides it.
Christian fiction challenges me to think and change.
Maybe not everyone reads fiction for this reason, but I appreciate a book that takes a little thought. For example, I loved Jill Williamson’s King’s Folly because it helped me think biblically about subjects like idolatry, justice, and systemic evil (big-picture evils like racism, sex trafficking, poverty). Obviously, the book was a fantasy novel with engaging characters and a page-turning plot, but it also made me think, and I appreciated that.
Another one coming up in January that I just finished is Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. Not only did I learn about an entirely new historical setting—French colonial Louisiana—but several scenarios had me wondering, “What would I do if I were in this character’s place?” Any book that makes me think that—I’m in.
Christian fiction helps me understand people better.
Another one that’s yet-to-release (but in just a few weeks, guys, get excited) is Patrick Carr’s The Shattered Vigil. The fantasy novel’s main character is a detective who essentially has the ability to see others’ memories, absorb their emotions, and reveal their motives. I’m only halfway in, and there have already been so many insights about the characters that I have grown to love that I actually wrote on a sticky note, “Patrick, how do you understand people so deeply?” You can see it all over the story, which is what makes it so powerful and gripping.
Julie Klassen’s upcoming series starter The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill affected me in a similar way. The cast of characters was varied and fascinating, and since Julie has two more books to resolve all of their stories, she had plenty of time to develop each one, giving us their quirks and fears and hidden secrets. (As you can tell, I’m a sucker for large casts done really well.) I can’t wait to see the rest of the plotlines play out…and I’m sure come December, fans will have their opinions on how they would like to see a few couples matched up.
Fiction teaches me truth about people—the real-life characters around me—and I think people of faith often have the best insights on human nature because of their worldview. Sacrifice and betrayal, despair and hope, uncertainty and confidence…characters in Christian fiction have it all.
Christian fiction helps my faith come alive.
Sometimes I mean this in a literal way—books like Shadow of the Storm bring familiar Bible stories new meaning. Had I ever thought about what the wilderness wandering of the Israelites might have been like and the issues they struggled with? No. Was I very glad I did after reading Connilyn’s moving story? Yes, for sure.
Other times, it’s more subtle than that. The spiritual themes of a story will resonate with me in different places in my life. Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy shows God’s faithfulness even in times of doubt. Cold Shot reminds me of the freeing power of forgiveness. The Lost Heiress assures me of my standing as a beloved daughter of the heavenly Father. In some cases, the author directly meant for the message to come across. In others, I bring my experiences and struggles and learn along with the characters.
The dry, preachy sermons you hear about in discussions of Christian fiction probably exist…somewhere. But I haven’t encountered any lately. (See this post on the range of Christian content included in inspirational fiction.) Maybe people turning up their nose at Christian fiction just haven’t gotten the right recommendations yet.
I could keep going, of course, but those are the first four that comes to mind, and this post is already too long. Thanks for asking!
How about you? What are your favorite things about Christian fiction?