Not too long ago, I shared my thoughts on my favorite novels with faith elements: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, and Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. That post is here.
Let me add to that list, and include a movie we recently watched.
First, the novels:
An omission from my February list is Kathryn Hulme’s wonderful novel The Nun’s Story, which is, of course (considering its topic) drenched in faith. I’ve reviewed this book on my blog before (the post is here) so I’ll summarize the reasons I love this novel. First, it provides you with fascinating details of the life of nuns living in strict communion with each other and God. But second, it contains a story of a woman’s struggle with how best to live her life as she thinks God wishes her to lead it. And what a struggle it is. The protagonist, Sister Luke, has a keen intellect and desire to serve those less fortunate. But she finds herself called on to suppress these abilities in the name of obedience to her order at times, and this creates an inner battle that resonates with those of us outside the walls of a convent. Hulme herself was not a nun, but her story seems to have been influenced greatly by the life of her dear friend, a Belgian woman who’d been a nun before World War II. The book was made into a movie that never fails to draw me in when I find it turning up on TCM, with Audrey Hepburn in the role of Sister Luke. Unfortunately for readers, seeing the excellent movie might be the only way to access the story. Literary rights to the novel have been hung up in confusion over who controls them. It’s hard to find copies of the book itself.
My list of favorites with faith elements also leads me to include a novel from the “inspirational” genre: Second Chance Love by Shannon Farrington. First, about this genre: inspirational novels meet certain bookseller requirements. They contain no cursing or euphemisms for cursing, no references to God except in respectful and faith-based ways, no salacious material or anything even close to it. They are clean stories that sometimes don’t even contain a lot of references to religion, but do carry an acknowledgment that the characters are Christian believers…or become them over the course of the story. Second Chance Love is a historical, set in the Civil War in Maryland, and while it tells a charming love tale about a widow and her late husband’s brother finding each other, it also contains fascinating history about what happened in Union states after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Maryland was one such state where people still owned slaves. To end this practice, the people of Maryland had to pass a law freeing the slaves there. Ms. Farrington’s handling of this contentious slice of history was well-done. I’ve reviewed the book before (here), and I recommend it as an example of how inspirationals can be interesting, good reads. The novel is a love story on two levels: between hero and heroine and between neighbors learning just what “loving one’s neighbor” requires of them.
Now, on to movies: I’m including this category because my husband and I finally got around to watching Risen this past weekend (appropriately, considering it was Easter weekend). The story is something of a procedural mystery as Roman tribune Clavius (Ralph Fiennes) is tasked with finding out what happened to Jesus’ body after his crucifixion — in order to prove he did not rise from the dead, as his followers claim. Clavius interviews apostles, Mary Magdalene, the guards at the tomb, all with a world-weary attitude that telegraphs his desire to move on to his next assignment or…more appealing to him…some peace. He finds the latter at his search’s end. Some critics have said this movie preaches to the converted, but even so, it’s powerful as it shows just why the disciples were so afraid after the crucifixion and makes the Easter story come alive. It might not appeal to nonChristians, but it beautifully illuminates the great story of Christian belief for those who have heard it countless times.
Libby Sternberg’s novel Fall from Grace will be released by Bancroft Press September 1, 2017. If you’d like a chance at receiving a free ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy), comment below and be sure to include your email address! She will choose one US commenter at random by Monday, April 24.