While I enjoy nonfiction because of its often raw reality, I love novels for the opposite reason. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks once said that poetry is “life distilled,” and I think you could make the argument that novels also do that. Poetry, short stories, novels strip life down to its essentials and let us focus on the heart of the matter and not all the noise and confusion that accompanies real life.
That said, while I do enjoy reading mainstream fiction, some of it tries too hard to be unfiltered, giving us more of what we already experience. That is why I find myself drawn to Christian novels the way some TV watchers are drawn to old westerns and some movie goers to the Star Wars series: Good triumphs over evil, and while bullets are shot and ray guns are blasted, no blood is seen. It is an opportunity just to enjoy the story, root for the hero, and enjoy the craft of the writer/director.
Now I have other favorite Christian novelists, like Jan Karon, Joel Rosenberg, and Francine Rivers, but I have been drawn to Dee Henderson’s works for a few of reasons. First, she always has both a strong female and male protagonist in each novel, not restricted to stereotypical jobs. Second, she does her homework. Though each story has a sliver of romance in it, which of course you can see coming and are rooting for, Henderson focuses on the professions and circumstances of the characters and the processes they must take––whether a fighter pilot, a psychologist, or a detective. I always come away with a greater understanding of the tasks and difficulties involved in each. Third, she unapologetically has her main characters drink sodas and tea or coffee rather than alcoholic beverages. Now I have nothing against alcoholic beverages in moderation, but I must applaud her for choosing to stay true to her own values and to think about the influence her writing has on her audience (though I must admit, I do worry about how much sugar her characters are ingesting).
I have read her O’Malley series and her Uncommon Heroes series as well as some of her stand-alones. This time I chose Taken, which focuses on the reappearance of a woman who had been abducted eleven years earlier at the age of sixteen. She seeks out a retired police officer who had had to navigate a similar scenario with his own daughter years earlier. The novel unveils the intricacies and difficulties for the main character’s safety and well-being as she re-enters society as well as the impact on her family and all of those trying to keep her safe and bring the case to a close.
We all have our own tastes, and Henderson’s may not by yours, but I would love to hear what Christian novelists you enjoy reading. I always have room on my bookshelf and my kindle.