It’s no small task figuring out how God fits into life’s decisions, disappointments and joys. In these four novels, with protagonists of all ages and in every stage of life, God is both elusive and ever-present as a giver and taker of life and a wellspring of hope. Questions are posed; answers are proposed. The truth lies in the heart of the reader.
In Cara Wall’s thought-provoking debut, The Dearly Beloved, the lives of four characters become interwoven as they navigate the rough terrain of maturation on their way to lifelong friendship.
Lily and Charles meet in college, as do Nan and James. Strong yet scarred by tragedy, Lily has difficulty fathoming Charles’ faith and his call to ministry. Nan, a preacher’s daughter, finds herself relentlessly wooed by James, who is unsure of his call to be a minister. When the men are assigned to the same church in New York City in 1963, the couples meet. While the men fall into a natural symbiosis (James’ social activism matches Charles’ skills in ministering to the needy and heartbroken), difficulties between the women stir up feelings of loneliness and isolation.
But the true tests come when these new ministers struggle to find answers to questions of faith for themselves, their wives and their congregants. Why do good things happen to bad people? How do we handle grief and loss as people of faith? Does God have a plan for our lives? Does that plan include doubt? How should the church handle social activism? Wall doesn’t answer these questions, but she deftly explores the possibilities, honestly and beautifully drawing readers into the hearts and souls of these four characters, in whom we may find a little bit of ourselves.
In Rachel Linden’s third novel, The Enlightenment of Bees, she offers a gentle push for readers to realize that small things can make a big difference.
Mia West, devastated and rejected by her boyfriend, makes a quick decision to do what she believes are great things in a world that is hurting. Guided by dreams of bees, she goes on a humanitarian journey from the slums of Mumbai to a refugee camp on the Hungarian border. Her desire to change the world is crushed but renewed many times as she finds her way through heartbreaking situations outside her comfort zone. Mia’s past experiences have made her believe she must compromise what she wants in her life, that in order to effect change, she must deny her own heart. Her trip, as well as a budding relationship with a team member, helps change her mind.
Linden’s own experiences as an international aid worker add credibility to every description and expression of Mia’s frustration and joy. This honey-sweet story reveals the power of staying open to possibilities.
Father-and-daughter authors Ted and Rachelle Dekker deliver a suspenseful story of light and hope in the midst of a dark and fearful world in their first joint writing adventure, The Girl Behind the Red Rope.
A religious community called the Holy Family Church, hiding in the hills of Tennessee, is shaken to its core when a few members question why their group is sequestered. Then two “sinful” outsiders threaten to tarnish the followers’ “purity” when they arrive with what may be answers. The church leader, Rose Pierce, follows her own spiritual guide, believing that he has their best interests at heart—but is the guide an angel or something darker?
Questioning Rose’s possibly misguided authority as well as their own faith, brother and sister Jaime and Grace are determined to make the right decisions for themselves and the others while following Christ’s teachings. It’s not until a child leads Grace to see the light—in every way—that the tide begins to turn against the shadows that surround the Holy Family Church.
The Dekkers skillfully bring into focus the depth of supernatural evil that lurks around this faithful group and how easy it can be to fall prey to that evil. But ultimately, love conquers all fear, all darkness and all fury.
Award-winning author William Kent Krueger explores struggles and strength of faith during the Great Depression in This Tender Land. Four young orphans—white narrator and storyteller Odie, his brother Albert, a girl named Emmy and a mute Sioux boy named Mose—guide readers through a beautiful landscape after escaping abusive caretakers and horrendous conditions in a Native American boarding school. Krueger’s painstaking research allowed him to explore the lives of the poor, who existed on little means and lots of hope in 1932, and to open a window into Christian missionary-run boarding schools, which cruelly forced assimilation until the 1960s.
Reminiscent of Huck and Jim and their trip down the Mississippi, the bedraggled youngsters encounter remarkable characters and learn life lessons as they escape by canoe down the Gilead River in Minnesota. They meet a farmer grieving the loss of his family, a healer in a traveling revival show and a downtrodden family unable to get out of a makeshift Hooverville. These three pit stops underscore diversity of faith and beliefs, charity and hardship, and all three propel the four vagabond children to a new level of understanding how God works in their lives and in the lives of others, even in times of despair.