Junk novels for beach reading are abundant, but those looking for summer novels with satisfying stories and characters worth reading about often leave bookstores empty-handed. Grace at Bender Springs by Vinita Hampton Wright (Broadman and Holman, 1999) is a Christian novel that avoids the problems of many within the genre: lousy writing, two-dimensional characters, and moralism.
The novel shows Bender Springs shriveling up from lack of rain. The parched countryside echoes a general spiritual dryness affecting many townspeople, including the young wife of the Baptist pastor who grows distant from her husband as she grows cold toward God. Ms. Wright does not spare her characters pain. A suicidal teen struggles with depression and another teen looks for love in the wrong places as she struggles with her mother's cancer. The author doesn't resort to cliches or force happy endings on her characters, but instead shows the gospel at work in the lives of people.