Master craftsmen

"Master craftsmen" Continued...

Issue: "2012 Books Issue," July 14, 2012

I listened enthralled to the audio versions of Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter. There's nothing like a great novel read by a skilled voice actor-and you can listen while driving, cleaning, exercising, or sitting in the dark.

Though I don't read much romance, Robin Lee Hatcher's Ribbon of Years won me over as she skillfully chronicled a colorful woman's seven decades. Tamera Alexander's A Lasting Impression drew me in with strong characters and intricate details of post-Civil War Nashville, including mouthwatering descriptions of Southern food. Colleen Coble's Blue Moon Promise is an engaging tale of arranged marriage. Liz Curtis Higgs writes enchanting Scottish novels, including Mine Is the Night.

While I'm told secular romances often degenerate into erotica, Christian romance novels encourage purity and committed marriages. When plots lag, many secular authors inject gratuitous sex or violence. Because Christian novelists don't have that option, many learn to portray romantic attraction and character conflict more skillfully.

Fiction is not one-size-fits-all. What some Christians call "preachy" draws certain unbelievers to Christ. Readers' tastes differ, as do writers' styles. While character conversions aren't obligatory, God's life-changing work is real and can be powerfully rendered (think Les Miserables). Novelists shouldn't be heavy-handed, but in the spinning of an engaging story, spiritual themes can emerge organically and believably, swaying readers' heads and hearts.


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