I see you there, cunning reader who thought I’d completely ignore this question because I was afraid of showing favoritism. Or maybe you thought I’d be vague and say, “That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child.” Haha! Guess I showed you.
The question, from our Ask BHP survey was, “If you had to pick a favorite Bethany House book, which would it be?”
And for me, the answer is easy: my favorite Bethany House book is Saint Ben by John Fischer. Since this novel is out of print and was first published in 1993 (check out that 90s cover!), I’d say this is a pretty safe choice, since none of my current authors can feel left out.
That, of course, isn’t the reason I chose it. Saint Ben will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons.
First, while it turns out that many of my favorite Christian children’s series were published by Bethany House, Saint Ben was different. It’s general fiction, almost a coming-of-age story, and really more for adults than kids, but my sixth grade teacher read it out loud to us one chapter at a time. It was the first book that I can remember distinctly shaping my faith, edging out The Silver Chair by a few months. The story, set in the 1950s, was about more than just the Rose Bowl parade or the Edsel or two pastors’ kids playing pranks on their church congregation, though those are all part of the story. It was about doubt and the courage to ask hard questions of God. That’s something twelve-year-old me was just starting to work through, and I loved realizing I wasn’t alone.
Second, John Fischer was the first author I ever met. I don’t know how my teacher worked it out, and I know it was so last-minute that none of us were able to buy a copy to be signed, but John Fischer came in to speak to my little sixth grade Christian school class, which, of course, I thought was the coolest thing ever.
Third, this one stands up to multiple re-readings now that I’m an adult, and it has a depth I didn’t notice my first time around, handling some difficult topics that you don’t often see in Christian fiction.
At the time, of course, I had no idea Saint Ben was a Bethany House book (at age twelve, I don’t think I realized that someone actually published books—I thought they kind of sprang up onto the shelves by magic). In fact, I didn’t make the connection until I walked into the Bethany House offices for my interview four years ago and saw this painting outside the office of our vice president of sales and marketing.
Turns out, it was a favorite of his too, enough that he wanted to display the original oil painting right by his door. So whenever I walk through the halls of our office, I remember my old friends Ben and Jonathan.
If you get a chance, I’d highly recommend finding a used copy of this classic and reading it. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
Can you remember the first fiction book that had an impact on your faith?