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What I Look for in a Christian Novel
This summer I started my 15-year-old daughter on the Brock & Bodie Thoene Gates of Zion series, which she loved. They're some of my favourite, too. I love novels that bring history to life, and show God's hand through that history.

But she noticed something about those books that I didn't. "The people were just too good." I thought back to those books and I realized she was right. They may have struggled with fear and hopelessness, but they didn't struggle with sin. They never did anything wrong. And it's hard to relate to that, or to feel inspired by that. I felt inspired by the history and God's hand; but I didn't feel as inspired by the characters.

We all have characters that haunt us, that stay with us, because they made such an impact. Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series did that for me. Her fictional Hadassah was so real, and for the next few weeks (and even years) after reading it, I would find myself moved to prayer that I could have some of the same Christ-like attitudes I saw displayed in that character, even after a lot of struggle.

I would like to read some novels where I struggle with the characters, who then walk with me afterwards.

Of course, not all books are meant to do that. Some are meant more for beach reading, or for having fun, or just for feeling good on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I'd put Bonnie Leon's Touching the Clouds, the first in her Alaskan series, in this category. I was sent it to review, and it did make a great read on the plane recently!

A beautiful book of struggling to tame an untamable wilderness in the 1930s, the book follows a woman struggling with her own guilt, and trying to expunge it by moving as far away from home as possible, taking a job as a pilot. It portrays beautifully the people who felt drawn to a cold, dark place, and were exhilirated by it.

If you've ever longed to chuck everything and do something completely different, here's a chance to live out that dream!

But at the same time, I think the reason the book didn't stay with me for long afterwards was that it was a little formulaic. Rebecca (who often notices things before I do), commented on it: "Must be nice to have three men all want to marry you at the same time". And it's true. How often does that happen in real life?

Also, I don't know why so many Christian novels have heroines in their early twenties who are of marriageable age. I'm 40. I'd like to read a book about a 40-year-old woman who's wondering how to make a difference in this world, or how to deal with her daughters' adolescence. I have read some great ones like that (Karen Kingsbury's A Time to Dancecomes to mind), but the truth is that these books are few and far between. And with the recession, with publishers buying fewer books, I fear that they're erring more on the "traditional" romance side, and not enough on the "real life" side.

Books like Touching the Clouds are awesome for teens, who need something wholesome to read, or for lazy afternoons; don't get me wrong. But I would like to see some fiction battling with dealing with a marriage when your husband is into pornography. Or what about handling it when your kids decide to move back in after college because of unemployment, and you're wondering who you are now. Let's get some heroines who are over the age of 45!

That's just a kind request, and I hope some publishers will honour it. Or perhaps I'll just have to write them myself!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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At 12:14 PM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

I'm trying to write a "real" Christian novel. Although my sister scoffs at me and says that if you make it real, it will turn it into a soap opera. I don't think so somehow.


At 1:16 PM , Blogger Harter said…

My favorite Christian author is Lori Wick, her characters have stayed with me over the years, and I can go back and read her books over and over, they never get old.

I totally agree with you that I would love a good Christian book about "real" life. I also have thought of writing one, but I am not to that point in my writing yet.

If you find an author who does get this done please share with us!

Oh, one book that a friend shared with me was First we have coffee by Margaret T. Jensen it is more of a biography though, and I haven't finished it yet...


At 9:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Melody Carlson has a (fairly) new series called "The 4 Lindas" about women who meet at a high school reunion (mid 40's I'd guess) and are dealing with a variety of "midlife" issues (a mom with alzheimers, meaning of life etc.)
In the realm of real and flawed heroines, I really enjoyed Bonnie Grove's Talking to the Dead, and Patti Hill's Seeing Things -- the heroine in Seeing Things is in her 70s, so that's refreshing!
I also read Lynn Austin's Though Waters Roar, which tells the stories of several strong women in several historical periods, recounted through a grand-daughter who finds herself in trouble...

(did I mention I'm loving my new job as church librarian!)



At 2:33 AM , Blogger Bonnie Leon said…

Sheila, thanks for including me on your site. But I do have to chime in here.

You are right, "Touching the Clouds" is a mostly for fun read with romance and adventure included. I like the story. It was fun to write. And I love my characters. They have a lot more in front of them, I hope you'll take some time to discover just what God has in mind for them.

I've also have written some of the other types of books you described and have more inside me begging to come out.

However, what is asked of me changes, depending upon the times, the publisher and what is on my heart.

We need all sorts of stories for the myriad of personalities and readers tastes. I love many different genres and hope to have the opportunity to read and write a variety.

So, pick up something new or something old and jump in and enjoy. Stories are meant to entertain and to change hearts.

Grace and peace to you,



At 7:46 AM , Blogger Capri K said…

I loved Hadassah too. That was the second Christian novel I ever read 15 years ago, and I STILL think about it! Really like Francine Rivers.

The first one was about a mail order bride by another popular Christian writer. I remember being dumbfounded by the fact that they weren't speaking to each other because of complicated issues, and in the next chapter, she was pregnant. WHAT????
Do I ever think about that book? Not so much.

I liked Bodie Thoene's The Shiloh Series better. There were very imperfect people there.


At 7:50 AM , Blogger shale said…

Here's a website for you I discovered not too long ago: I remember reading an article there a few months back talking about the same thing...the lack of real issues or level of excellence in writing in Christian fiction, and they offer info on new Christian books, book lists, authors, etc.


At 11:58 PM , Blogger Charity said…

Another church librarian checking in... :) Have you read the Four Seasons of Marriage series by Catherine Palmer and Gary Chapman? Very good and real to life! The characters are of different ages and facing different challenges in their marriages. It sounds like something you are looking for. :)


At 10:13 AM , Anonymous jrmiss86 said…

I just finished reading a novel that made me think of this post. It is a book, written by a Women of Faith speaker this year.

It is called Faithful and is about 3 middle aged women. Two are struggling in their marriages and one is 40 and still single. I enjoyed it and thought I would tell you about it since you mentioned that this was a type of Christian fiction book you would like to see more of.



At 10:12 PM , Blogger Mandy said…

You would enjoy Roxane Henke, I've throughly enjoyed every book she's written starting with After Anne. They're all absolutely wonderful!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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