Religon for the Reading Masses

You may remember last month when I got everyone all revved up about tweaking Christian Fiction into a broader category? Well, if you don’t. This is most important part of what I said, “you’ll want to look for a book that is as gentle or as action-packed as you can take, but the main motivating factor within the story will be religiously based.” And so the department went forth and found books to read. Are you curious to see who took advantage of the tweaking? Let’s get to it then!

Janet: House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson is the story of the Cooper family. Bailee, Genna and Piper Cooper are invited to a gathering at the family summer house by their father who says that he has something big to share with them. Now young adults the girls have not been to their family’s summer house in 15 years, the night their mother died. On the last night of their mother’s life the girls were watching when their father ground up their mother’s medication and stirred it into her drink. Their mother was taken to the hospital where she died so the girls have believed for 15 years that their father killed their mother. They have never talked to their father about it. Bailee, Genna and Piper are ready to clear the air. The Cooper family has a great deal of issues to sort out. It is painful for them all. Their father and Bailee’s boyfriend turn to God for His help. Will He help anyone else? Are there other helpful resources for some of the family members? You will need to read the book to find out.

Megan: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is the story of two sisters and their very different struggles with grief, forgiveness and faith. Caro has always considered herself an only child, ever since her much older sister Hannah joined a convent many years ago. Much to her dismay, Caro’s happy family life is disrupted with the sudden announcement that Hannah is coming home. Hannah won’t discuss her decision to leave, which only serves to frustrate Caro more. Unable to cope with the stranger in her house, Caro tells lies that alienate her from her friends when she is caught. It is not until Caro inadvertently discovers the secret that Hannah has been keeping that she begins to understand her sister’s loss of faith. In seeking advice from the family priest Caro not only begins to renew her own faith and but forges a new relationship with her sister. This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at faith and family in young adult literature.

Carol: In Pie Town by Lynne Hinton, two strangers arrive to a place named for a dessert that hasn’t been served there in years. Father George Morris, fresh from the seminary, has been assigned to Pie Town, New Mexico as his first parish, and along the way there he’s picked up Trina, a young troubled woman who is hitchhiking. The town is in the midst of planning a party for Alex, a young boy with spinal bifida, who might be the only thing the disagreeable people in Pie Town can agree on. Alex is kind and loving, hopeful and forgiving, despite his diagnosis, spending most of his young life in a wheelchair, and being raised by his divorced grandparents after being abandoned by his mother. Trina’s first day in town ends with her breaking into the church, stealing wine and putting the moves on another girl’s boyfriend, and soon things start looking glum for Trina. And when the church burns down, Trina is the first suspect. Father George, who has secrets of his own, also begins to feel alienated and takes the burnt church as a sign that he is not wanted. Will these two misfits find joy in Pie Town, or will they move on? And when, if ever, will there be pie again in Pie Town? This bittersweet story is a quick read about small town life, faith, secrets, and guardian angels, that teaches some history lessons about Native American life New Mexico along the way. With lessons about forgiveness and second chances, this novel is ultimately uplifting. Readers should be made aware that the novel explores some issues like unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and also some curse words.

Julie: Sweeter than Birdsong is Rosslyn Elliott’s second book of The Saddler’s Legacy series which is fiction based on the lives of the Hanby family of Westerville, Ohio. The time is 1855 and Kate Winter is trying to escape from her family and the bonds of marriage while Ben Hanby is trying to help fugitives escape the bonds of slavery when their paths intersect and are forever changed.

Ann: To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming is a novel of faith and murder set in the small Adirondack town of Miller’s Kill. Clare Fergusson, Episcopal priest of St. Alban’s is preparing for a visit from the bishop, when she’s called to help the local Search and Rescue team find a missing young woman. The story, which takes place over a 24-hour period, takes a fast rollercoaster pace as the townspeople search for the missing Millicent van der Hoeven, and other developments in town lead to a web of assault, blackmail, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Clare and the town’s chief of police Russ Van Alstyne struggle with the events taking place in their community and with the growing feelings of attraction each feels for the other. This is the fourth book in the series and it won’t disappoint.

Rosemary: Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin is a fast-paced, genuine novel that explores good vs. evil. Readers meet Tyler Steele, a third generation Texas Ranger, who has made a complete hash of his life. He is estranged from his wife, who longed for a deeper connection with Ty, but this was something he could never give. His chance for redemption comes in the unlikely pair of a young mother and her daughter. Samantha and Hope are frightened and obviously on the run. Ty knows he can protect them, but will he be able to thaw his stone-cold heart.

Steve: Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, is the philosophical story of the main character, Siddhartha, and his lifelong spiritual quest. He and a friend leave home and seek out the enlightened one, Buddha. Upon finding him, Siddhartha choices to continue his search and leaves his friend to join the Buddha’s followers. Siddhartha embarks on a journey of pleasure and riches, but tires of such emptiness and seeks another lifestyle of simplicity. He discovers a son he did not know existed, and upon the mother’s death, takes him in but finds they have nothing in common. Against this backdrop Siddhartha finds peace and his own brand of enlightenment. Siddhartha is a short and easy paced read, but is abundant in thoughtful lessons.

Emma: The Shack by William P. Young is the story of Mac and Missy Phillips. Six-year-old Missy is abducted during a family camping trip. Her blood-stained dress was found in a shack in the Oregon wilderness, but her remains were never found. Missy’s dad Mac blames himself for the kidnapping/murder. Four years later grief-stricken Mac receives a suspicious note inviting him back to the shack. He decides to go and discovers that the shack has been transformed into something lovely. Mac has been invited to spend a weekend with the Trinity for a weekend of healing, rest, assurance, and confrontation. A sad story with an interesting premise.

Dori: Lying Awake by Mark Salzman is the story of Sister John, a Carmelite nun who, having struggled with her spiritual purpose, now seems blessedly inspired and through her visions is writing best-selling poetry. At the same time, however, she has been having migraines which are getting worse. After a doctor’s visit she discovers she has epilepsy and that it is the cause of her inspiration; a simple operation would take it all away. Is the epilepsy and its effects the will of God or a delusion? Should she/can she return to her previous existence of doubt and disconnection? Salzman’s bare writing, alternating prayer and prose, takes your breath away.

Stacey: At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon is the first book in the very popular The Mitford Years series, and truthfully might just be my favorite. This is the book that introduces readers to Father Tim, the young boy Dooley, who needs strong guidance and lots of love, a massive dog named Barnabas, and an eligible neighbor lady who seems pretty friendly! The small town life, the interesting characters, and the satisfying relationships that continue to change, will make picking up A Light in the Window a must.

Next time we’re going be thinking beachy thoughts! This discussion will feature those easy, breezy books that people like to spend their summer days reading. If you’re feeling the heat already, why not look back at some of the books we enjoyed in the Summer of 2011?


— Stacey

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