Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What We Choose To Read

For the most part, I choose to read Christian fiction because I feel safer.  I'm less likely to have my mind led to places it isn't wise for it to go.  

A month ago, I read a book that was very disturbing to me.  It was published by a Christian publisher that is thought by many to be one of the most dependable, but there was a lot of crass imagery in the book and lustful thinking by the characters.  I literally thought the characters had made love in the book.  I set the book down and didn't realize they hadn't until I read in another person's review that they hadn't.  But, the language had been that strong.  I did contact the publisher and ask about the decision to publish the book, but I haven't received any response.  

I was relating this story to a friend of mine who is single and she commented that she thought that was only a struggle for single women--why did married women need to be concerned with such things?  My response was that when you're reading a book, you aren't picturing yourself with your husband, you are imagining the two characters.  It's like looking into someone else's bedroom.  Please forgive the imagery, but that isn't something we should be privvy to.  And I don't believe it's wise to let our minds go there.  But, it wasn't just that one scene that set me ill at ease.  It was also the way the characters thoughts were related--full of lust.

My conclusion that I've come to is that although Christian fiction may not always be written as well as I'd wish, I am safer than I'd be if I chose to read secular fiction.  I've read several secular books in which I got hijacked by the agendas of the authors.  The scenes in the stories made me sick to my stomach and ultimately I set the books down or skipped large sections. 

I don't have to post this review, but I did enjoy this book and it was an interesting read in light of these conversations I've had recently about secular and Christian fiction. 

A friend of mine who knows Lisa Samson asked me a few months back what I thought of her books. I only recalled reading a book of hers several years ago and didn't have any particular strong memory so I wasn't sure what to say. In the past few years I've read over 200 books and likely 50 of those were fiction. This book, Resurrection in May, will stand out to me for several reasons. 

First, the writing is good. The pace is slow, but the story never completely stops moving. If you've read Wendell Berry's descriptions of country life, you'll be able to glimpse that life in the character of Claudius. At one point, the author mentions reading "Old Jack", which is a book by Wendell Berry. The descriptions are very much in the vein of contemporary secular writing rather than the typical Christian fiction. But, in contrast to Amy Inspired, which I read a month ago, the descriptions are never crass or lustful. Ms. Samson writes well without ever going in the gutter, so to speak. 

Second, the plot has multiple twists and layers. It isn't simple and straightforward. It is a journey of healing and redemption. The ending has a sense of closure and peace. It isn't written like a made for tv movie, like much of Christian fiction today, which is a good thing. 

Third, this book is not what what I'd call typical Christian fiction. It falls in a gray area. It reads a lot like secular fiction, but God is in there too. And Claudius' faith is real. It reminds me of my neighbor who is an older man who was once a brick layer. I can see him saying the things that Claudius says about faith and God. But, expect this to be more like secular fiction than most Christian fiction you've read. 

Sometimes hope takes time. Sometimes it doesn't grow very quickly, but takes a lot of watering and a long dormant winter. That is the story of May-May. 

One last note, this book did remind me that we shouldn't take our theology from fiction books. There were a couple of things that the Episcopalian priest says that I didn't agree with. But, I will say that the church goers in this book are real--flaws and all. The bumper sticker is true. Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven. Corny, very corny, but true. 

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishing.


beewhisper said...


Thanks for this review! It's good to hear that there are interesting Christian novels being written. I also deliberated about whether or not to read fiction by non-Christian writers. Christian novels often seem over simplified and flat. The characters are frustratingly perfect, the romance is sugary, and the plots predictable. I usually get annoyed halfway through the book. Yet Christian novels seem better than the alternative -- having sinful thoughts or images introduced into my mind. My usual solution is to stick with authors that I trust or to read books that are old. I assume that if they are old and considered classics, then they are less likely to be lewd.

Anne said...

Yes, there are. Have you read June Bug by Chris Fabry or The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry--I have both so you're welcome to borrow them from me. Both are good writing. But, there's another one I'm reading that I think you'd love! It's called Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight. It is the best writing I've read in so long. It is a kids book, but the descriptions are so wonderful. I am just amazed at her cleverness in her writing :)

Anne said...

PS I completely understand. With me and the kids I tend to stick to authors I know or classics for the same reasons. ;)