Since we don't have homework to worry about, summer is time for trips to the library, and lots of books for me. I love to read but during the school year I rarely have the time. What am I reading? Well, my college alumni email list buddies decided to start a book thread and we decided to read Delta Belles, a book by fellow alum, Penelope Stokes. The story is about four women who graduated from Mississippi Women's College (our school was Mississippi University for Women) in the late 1960's and much of the way she describes the college is obviously our school. I'll save further discussion of that book for later except to say that I enjoyed it and that the next time I went to the library, I selected more of her books.
I checked two out of the library yesterday afternoon, and have finished them both. When I first looked her up after Delta Belles was selected, I noted that she wrote Christian fiction. I don't know about you, but I've read plenty of Christian fiction, and most of them were historical romances. These books, in general, are about as predictable and have characters as complex and well-developed as your basic bodice-buster novel found in the supermarket check-out line. Boy meets girl, there is an attraction but something stands in the way. Eventually they find each other--and in the Christian version, they find God too. Instead of steamy bedroom scenes you get scenes from church services or people's prayers. These novels (both the standard and Christian versions) are pure mind candy, easy to read and just as easy to forget. I've read plenty of both types. I found her books to be different. In the last week I have read A Circle of Grace, The Blue Bottle Club and The Amber Photograph. While they are easy and quick reads, they have complex strong women characters and while they have happy endings, they do not end up with everyone getting married. Relationships between women seem to be the focus of her writing. While most Christian fiction I have read has a scene or two pushing "accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior" these books do not. God is there and faith in Him helps some of the characters deal with life, but there is never any intimation that faith in God will solve all the problems the characters have. Further the characters grapple with who God is and what kind of God would allow what has happened to them--and the ministers don't offer any pat answers. I suspect the author's religion is of the liberal variety as two of the books have homosexual characters--characters who are in relationships and who find themselves made whole by those relationships. One of the main characters of The Blue Bottle Club is a Catholic nun and her faith isn't put down or played down as I've seen in other Christian fiction. In short, I'd recommend all four of those books and I plan to read the rest of her books when I can get my hands on them.