Arnold reading a book
A Christian Life

Reading Christian fiction for the first time

Have you ever read Christian fiction?

Over the last few months, I’ve read my first two Christian fiction books (I think ever?) and I thought it would be interesting to share my experience, and my first thoughts with you. Before this, I was definitely weary of Christian fiction and really didn’t think it would be my cup of tea – so if that is you too, don’t worry this experience was much better than I was expecting.

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My Expectations

Before this experience, I was largely sceptical of Christian fiction for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I had only really heard of Christian romance books – and I’d heard plenty of bad things about those Christian romance books. I also thought Christian fiction would end up being really twee, trying to teach you a certain lesson and being really over-obvious about it, at the detriment of the actual story. Plus, romance just isn’t my favourite genre generally.

I do still think there are some very important concerns about some Christian romance fictions, and I’m still weary of that part of Christian fiction – I have just discovered that there are other types of Christian fiction out there! If you are interested on finding out more about some of the concerns around Christian romance books, I recommend checking out Phylicia Masonheimer, and this video from Katie Emmerson.

The Books

Both of the Christian fiction books I have read so far were thanks to Revell Books and NetGalley (a platform that allows reviewers and bloggers to read advanced copies in exchange for an honest review). There are both published now though so you can get your hands on them if you like the sound of them!

All That We Carried by Erin Bartels

In this story we follow two sisters, one who believes in nothing, the other who seems to believe in a bit of everything. Their parents were killed in a car accident 10 years ago, and they have drifted apart during that time, dealing with their grief in very different ways. One of the sisters, however, is determined to bridge the divide and organises a hike for them to go on together, to give them chance to talk properly.

This is a really gentle, easy to read story but with just the right balance of interesting events happening along the journey and the discussions and discoveries they are having. It opens up so many interesting thoughts and reflections, about how the two sisters have responded to grief differently and how that has impacted their lives, how their grief has impacted what they believe about life and faith, and what they are each searching for in life.

You can find this book here.

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

In this book we follow Evelyn and Peter, both Americans living in 1930’s Germany. As the situation in Germany becomes more hostile, Evelyn, a foreign correspondent, must walk the thin line of reporting truthfully and exposing the oppression being experienced, whilst avoiding being expelled from the country or worse. Peter is an American graduate student working on his PhD in German, whose eyes are gradually opened to the brutality of the regime.

I loved exploring this time period in history, and particularly the German invasion of the Sudetenland and the time leading up to World War Two, rather than the war itself. It was really interesting to look at those people who were originally supportive of Hitler and the economic success he brought to Germany, and then seeing them come to realise the reality of what was going on. The stakes of this book do feel really high, whilst also recognising that the characters’ American citizenship made them significantly more safe than German Jews. This book opened up so many discussions, from independence vs. partnership, to freedom vs. order, and leaning on God and other people.

Both Peter and Evelyn are Christians, and what I loved most about this book is the way that their faith was portrayed. It was real and clear, impacting the decisions that they made and their thought processes around both working against the Nazi regime and the romance elements of this book. Their faith is a really significant part of their character but is so natural and realistic thanks to how well developed these characters are.

You can find this book here.

My thoughts

So, what have I discovered from these first two dips into Christian fiction? Firstly, I have found two great Christian authors that write a style of Christian fiction that I really enjoy! I’m super interested to read more from both authors including The Words Between Us (Erin Bartels) and the Sunrise at Normandy series (by Sarah Sundin – find the first one here).

But also, I’ve found that I do really enjoy reading about Christian characters, where I can clearly see the way that their faith impacts their lives in a really normal, natural way. I think there are two extremes for authors to fall into here: characters who are Christian in name, but their faith has no impact upon their actions or thoughts; and characters where being a Christian is the only part of their personality, which is just ridiculous as Christians come in all shapes and sizes and personalities of course. But anyway, the middle ground is what I really enjoyed about Sarah Sundin’s characters. Their faith was obvious and truly an important part of them, but they were also very well-developed characters with so much personality – definitely not cookie cutter characters.

Obviously, there were only my first two Christian fiction books, so I have plenty more to explore. If you are a Christian fiction reader, what are your favourite Christian fiction books? I’m still not super interested in romance but would love to hear your recommendations for Christian fiction within other genres!

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