I’ve said on here before that I haven’t found a lot of Christian fiction that I like. Well, obviously I had not read this:
Apparently I have just not picked the right Christian fiction with the selections I’ve read previously. I think maybe I should have been a little more careful when I slammed most Christian fiction, and I shouldn’t have made such a blanket statement earlier. Just because most of what I had come across to then wasn’t great doesn’t mean that none of it is worth reading. As with any genre of writing, there is some good, some very good and some bad and some very bad.
There are a few reasons I have tended to be turned off by certain types of Christian fiction in the past, and I’ve tried to blog about it before, but my thoughts always ended up being too long or too critical and I never posted them. For example, I read a book once that would probably be classified as a kind of Christian romance. First mistake. I don’t really like that formula-driven kind of book anyway – you now, girl meets boy, girl is angry at boy or they get off on the wrong foot for some reason, girl finally realizes she actually loves boy, etc. - so painting a thin veneer of Christianity over the top and cleaning it up a bit didn’t add to my liking that particular book. That and the writing was not very good. And I ought to know. I’m plagued with a real desire to write, but I’ve tossed out so many things I’ve tried to write because they suffer with just the kinds of shallow and bad writing that I’m describing. But The Last Sin Eater was very, very different from the kind of book I just described.
It is HARD to write a Christian fiction story without the dialogue about faith seeming either contrived or preachy. It is neither in The Last Sin Eater. I love how she wove in the discussions of faith so well and naturally, and the conversions were so believable. In that other book I mentioned, the character kind of had a moment where she all of a sudden said that she just realized she’d been trying to live for God out of duty but now she realized it was love that mattered. It was odd because there was no indication earlier in the book that she even thought she was living for God at all, and no real reason for her to change her thinking. It was almost like that little epiphany was just thrown in to make it a “Christian book” but her change of heart wasn’t really developed very well before or after at all. In Francine Rivers’ book that I just finished, she does a masterful job of portraying characters who are weighed down by the guilt of sin – their own and others’ - and the realization that there is no way they can save themselves, and their pain and searching are palpable as you read and grieve and cry with them. And the thing that turned their thinking around was the word of God. Whenever a character is sharing the faith in this book, they are quoting actual scripture, and doing it in such a way that it sounds conversational and natural and right, not contrived. I am so impressed with the way this book was written.
Another thing I have run across in other Christian fiction books is, for lack of a better term, bad theology. Ideas that just don’t line up with scripture and are passed off as Christian. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me so much in books that are secular because they are not trying to present a Christian worldview and no one is really expecting it and it is even pleasantly surprising when such a book accurately portrays the faith at all, but when a book is published as a “Christian” book, it really bothers me to have bad theology or weird spiritual speculations presented as Christian thinking. And there are lots of that kind of stuff out there that women, especially, seem to gobble up without any discernment at all, swallowing weird theology or bad thinking as orthodox because it is presented as ‘Christian.’ Kind of like assuming we can turn off our discernment if we found the book in the Christian bookstore. I find that disturbing. And the reason I find it disturbing is that we American Christians seem to be becoming increasingly biblically illiterate, developing most of our theology from books and TV personalities (Oprah, TBN, the current 'Christian' fad, etc.) and not necessarily testing what we read or hear by the plumb line of God’s word. And when we do not take the time to know the Word, we are ripe for deception masquerading as truth.
Anyway, I’m happy to say that I found The Last Sin Eater to be a book I could really enjoy on a lot of levels. Not only was the story itself engaging – engaging? I couldn’t put it down! - but the writing was good, too, and for the most part the spiritual theme was well-developed and didn’t make me squirm, either. I’m glad I read it, and I’m looking forward to reading more.