I am a Christian, yet most categorically "Christian" things annoy me. Christian fiction definitely included. I usually avoid most of the stuff at the Christian bookstore (in the rare occasions I've actually even gone into that store). The way people pander to a demographic just to sell things like books and music is SO frustrating. And usually false. Reading a book that supposedly reflects my views, but with a shiny cover and oddly phrased language makes me want to burn books. And I LOVE books. Needless to say, I don't read very much so-called Christian fiction.
That said, I was excited when our church came out with a recommended reading list for the summer. Not required, just some books that some of the leaders are familiar with and knew would be encouraging and interesting reads. I love my church and the fact that they don't often fall into the stereotypes of what most of the world thinks of when they hear the word Christian. I trust our leaders and learn a lot there, which is why we make a forty-five minute drive every week to attend!
The first book I got from the list was Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins. I read all 500+ pages over about three days and was completely blown away. This is a wonderful book that I'm now going to recommend to everyone I know!
The story follows two characters and switches back and forth between them throughout the book. One is a middle aged pastor who hasn't been treated very well by the different small churches he has pastored and ends up working as the chaplain in a supermax prison. As a result of years of struggle and obstacles (family drama, work disappointments, the depressing nature of the prison, watching a death row inmate die) he's not feeling very loved or taken care of by God. He keeps his faith, but has to face his doubts and fears. The other character is a boy from the trailer park, literally. He grew up rough and though he gets a few chances from a few sympathetic people over the years, he's constantly fighting against poverty, addiction and his own poor choices until he ultimately ends up on death row himself. Then the two characters encounter each other and God and miraculous things happen.
Though very entertaining, Riven is also very real, encouraging, and convicting. Never did I feel the Christian characters were one dimensional or over simplified. The view of poverty, crime, addiction, and sin wasn't heavy handed or didactic. The whole thing was just right. I've met these people before. I've faced some similar situations (though this book wasn't much about relating for me). I cried through the last couple of chapters (and I'm not much of a crier) and when I finished reading, I was different because of it.
I can't say enough about this book. It was more than worth the read and I'm really looking forward to more similarly impacting reads!