Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I've been getting a lot of offers lately to review books from publishers for "Christian fiction" that is anything but. Now I am not a reader who only dips her toe in the Christian fiction pond. I read a wide variety of genres, and while the majority of what I review is Christian, the majority of what I read is not, so I don't have an issue with secular books. I do however, have an issue with books that are marketed as Christian when they don't fit the mold. The mold is pretty broad, there are plenty of books that are Christian that never mention God's name or have a faith aspect. Angela Hunt is a genius at writing books like that; Christian themes of redemption, salvation, love, etc, without beating the reader on the head with lots of Christian language. Publishers need to understand that any book that has a child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is not going to be considered Christian fiction by those readers. Instead they are going to be angry, hurt, and betrayed at the misleading label. Books that depict the Bible is being full of lies or the entire church as being evil cannot be considered Christian because they attack two of the core tenets of faith. It's a bit sad actually that some publishers are so clueless as to what Christianity actually is that they think that just because Jesus or the Bible are mentioned in the book, that it makes it Christian fiction.

On the other hand, I have been reading some terrific contemporary romances that are clearly Christian fiction, and reviewers are flambeing the authors because the main character isn't Christian enough or because the Christian elements are subdued. I think that those reviewers are doing a disservice to those authors. I sat in on a discussion with librarians about Christian fiction. Each one had selected a book from the genre to read and discuss at the meeting. One of the librarians was horrified by the talk about faith and Jesus that seemed over the top to her. It turned her off to the book, the author, and the entire genre, and that is so sad to me. Not every Christian fiction book will appeal to secular readers, but I think that if authors want to reach a broader audience, they occasionally need to tone down the jargon.

In one romance I read several months ago, the main character was not a Christian at the beginning of the book. She was living with her boyfriend and became pregnant. He left her, and she decided to have the baby on her own, with the help of some Christian friends and neighbors. At the end of the book, the character still hadn't had her come-to-Jesus moment, but she had learned some deep lessons about faith and had softened her view of Christians in general. Reviewers were vicious in their attacks on the book, the author, and the character. How sad! This was a fantastic romance that would appeal to a wide audience, but Christian readers attacked it because it wasn't Christian enough. Ugh!

Obviously there's a fine line between what is Christian fiction and what isn't, and that line is different for each reader. I often find Christian elements in completely secular writing (Dean Koontz, for example, has become very spiritual in recent years). I think that publishers need to be more aware of what Christian fiction isn't rather than try and market the new DaVinci Code to Christian markets. I also think that Christian readers need to keep their minds open to books with characters outside their comfort zone. I think that most Christian fiction authors would love to have one of their books break into the secular market, but unless we're willing to let those writers out of the box, it will never happen. Christians are supposed to be reaching out.

To be clear, Angelology, my review today, was NOT sent to me as Christian fiction, and I appreciate the publicist not trying to market it as such. Today's rant was about a few other books that I've been receiving/hearing about recently.
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni jumps on The DaVinci Code bandwagon with a suspenseful story about the battle between angels and angelologists that has been fought for millenia. Sister Evangeline has lived most of her life at St. Rose Convent's Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. She knows that her parents were involved in dangerous research regarding angels, but nothing more. Verlaine has been hired by Percival Grigori to track down some mysterious letters between Abigail Rockefeller and Mother Innocenta, abbess of St. Rose, during WWII, but after meeting Sister Evangeline, his search quickly becomes a quest to save his life and discover what was so important in those papers. Trussoni has created a fascinating world in which history has been made by the Nephilim, an angel/human hybrid who have manipulated humans for their own gain. Only the angelologists have had the courage to oppose them, and the history of this battle makes for some great reading. The Nephilim make for terrifying villains, and the action scenes are very well written. The story bogs down about midway with a very long flashback through the eyes of (what was up til then) a minor character. The main characters aren't given the information that the reader now has, which makes for some confusion as to who knows what. The major twist is fairly obvious, but Trussoni handles it well leaving room for a sequel. My request for future volumes in the series is no more flashbacks that just break up the action and deflate the building tension. This is definitely a great beach read for the summer.

Thank you to Penguin Group for providing me with a copy of this book for review!


David A. Bedford said...

First, thank you for a thorough and thoughtful essay on Christian literature. I couldn't agree with you more. My new release, Angela 1: Starting Over probably fits your definition of a good Christian book. The publisher is not a Christian publisher and it is not marketed as a Christian book. I won't plug it here, but those who may be interested can follow the link to my website and my blog. Thanks :)