Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells: A book review

Drug abuse, opioid epidemic, ash trees dying, abuse in relationships, wildlife rescue, prison, unplanned pregnancy, and adoption. These are the themes covered in Sorrells’s latest book. If you’re one of those who believes Christian fiction shies away from tough topics or sugarcoats their endings, reading fiction by Amy Sorrells should change your mind.

What makes this “Christian fiction”? The grace of God is woven throughout–expressed in relationships, in dealing with forgiveness and trust, and learning to see God’s hand even in the toughest times.

When I first began this book, I had to put it down a couple of times because of the hard life of the teen-age Jaycee and the impossible situation she found herself in. I would rather those bad and hard times come upon a character more gradually, but sometimes life isn’t like that.  Sorrells writes of such a life with appealing characters who are given a glimmer of hope in their darkest hours. Highly recommend.

This was not my first book by Sorrells. I reviewed Then Sings My Soul last year: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/06/

Disclosure: I received the kindle edition of this book from goodreads but am under no obligation to leave a review. Thoughts and comments are all my own.

Dorothy L. Sayers: Apologist and Mystery Writer

“I always have a quotation for everything; it saves original thinking.” Dorothy Sayers.

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) wore many hats, but it is the labeling her as “apologist and mystery writer” by one article which makes me smile, and I believe would amuse her as well.

Born at Oxford, the only child of the Rev. Henry Sayers, she won a scholarship to Somerville College (a college of Oxford, started specifically for women). She graduated in 1915 with first class honors in modern languages.

She wrote her first “Lord Peter Wimsey” mystery, Whose Body?, while working at a London advertising firm. She went on to write several novels and short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The books are still being published today and many of her readers are unaware of her many other accomplishments.

Sayers considered her best work her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sayers was 51 when she first read the Divine Comedy, and she became consumed with it. “I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy . . .” Deciding to make a fresh translation of his work, she learned the Italian necessary, and the translation remains in print.

Of all her writings, it is concerning a particular play–The Man Born to be King–I want to write about today. She wrote her first play, The Zeal of Thy House, for the Canterbury Festival. She then wrote six more plays including The Man Born to be King. I read this play over ten years ago, and have decided to reread it this year as part of my “Christmas reading.”

This play was originally written for the BBC for broadcasting in the children’s hour. Sayers’ depiction of Christ has him speaking in modern English (since her audience would hardly know Greek) which caused a great outcry of protests. Didn’t she know Jesus (and all those around him) spoke in King James English? One newspaper editor put it this way: “In quoting the Bible we must take the Authorized Version, and not the interpretation of scholars, however wise.” Sayers response: “Of this singular piece of idolatry I will only say that it imposes difficulties upon the English playwright from which the Greek tragic poets are free.” She further explains that as the Incarnation really happened–meaning God became a man and lived among common, ordinary people–he, consequently, spoke a common, ordinary language.

This speaks to me as a writer as I have been wrestling with criticism concerning some of my dialogue. Some say my dialogue sounds too modern, and I wonder if they’re expecting King James English (the Authorized Version) as well? I understand the characters shouldn’t sound like 21st century Americans, but I do not know the Hebrew language and do not believe my characters spoke in any superior sort of way. The whole point of writing about Biblical characters is to remind us that they were real people and not merely “characters.” The sons of King David, though sons of a king, were also shepherds and warriors. Yes, David was a poet and a song writer, but does anyone really think he went around speaking poetically to his sons? Or that Solomon spoke in proverbs in his every day life?

When Sayers wrote her play, she wanted her audience to remember also that these characters did not know what they were doing. “We are so much accustomed to viewing the whole story from a post-Resurrection, . . .point of view, that we are apt, without realising it, to attribute to all the New Testament characters the same kind of detailed theological awareness which we have ourselves. We judge their behavior as though all of them–disciples, Pharisees, Romans, and men-in-the-street–had known with Whom they were dealing . . . But they did not know it.”

Sayers goes on to explain that when we show how real the people were who “made vulgar jokes about Him, called Him filthy names, taunted Him, . . .”, we are shocked, and we should be. However, when we pretty up the language and think of it all as in a culture and people far removed from us, we are not quite as shocked and do not see ourselves as those very people (as we should). “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

In the same way, I wish for people who read my stories to see themselves in these Bible characters. To understand that we are just as sinful, just as fallen, and just as in need of a Savior. If a reader does not relate to the characters as people like themselves, they will only view the stories as just that–stories.

I’m looking forward to rereading these plays with a new eye than when I read them before. If you want to join along, please comment and let me know!

“The only Christian work is good work, well done.” Dorothy L. Sayers

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part Seven (and the End) by P.M. Gilmer

If you still haven’t read part six of this story, here is the link:

https://pmgilmer.com/2017/09/01/my-name-is-absalom-part-6-by-p-m-gilmer/

And now for the conclusion of “My Name is Absalom.”

 

I woke well before the sun on the morning of my planned dinner. I tried to eat some bread before I tended to my duties, but anticipation kept my stomach rolling. My plans were all falling into place though I did encounter one unforeseen problem: the early return of my mother. I had expected her to stay with her father for another month or so, but two days ago, I received word of her return. Fortunately, Tamar had stayed with our grandfather.

My mother heard (naturally) of the dinner I planned and of my invitation to my father (who had, predictably, declined). She knew me well enough to be suspicious of my show of generosity, but as I refused her commands to come visit her, she had no chance to question me. I’m not saying she would have disapproved of my plan, but she hated to be left out of anything, and I’m sure if I let her know what I was doing, she would demand a front row seat. Her drama I could live without. This was my revenge, and she would just have to hear of it second-hand.

I reminded my servants of their roles until satisfied each one was prepared to play their part. Under my directions, they had put up a tent the day before and were now bringing in a table, cushions, and whatever else should be necessary to make everything ready for this evening. All I needed to do now was continue to oversee the preparations and to wait. Waiting can be difficult, but when you know what you’ve been waiting for is truly about to happen, the waiting becomes a sort of deliciousness.

I tried to rest during the heat of the afternoon, but my excitement was too great for either my body or my mind to settle. I rechecked everything again–made sure my knives were sharpened to a keen edge, counted the skins of wine, and made sure (again) that my servants–Ramiah and Kedar–knew where each brother was to sit. Nothing would be left to chance.

Finally, the sun began to fall through the sky, leaving bright red and orange splashes in its wake. The first of my brothers arrived–Ithream and Adonijah, followed by Solomon and Shammua. I gave them all hearty greetings, making sure my servants seated them properly and served them some wine. In a matter of minutes, all my brothers and a few of our cousins had arrived with the exceptions of Amnon and Jonadab. Jonadab knew to wait until the others had time to arrive before he brought Amnon here. It would not do for them to be the first to arrive. No, let Amnon see his brothers already settled, so that he, too, could settle in and be comfortable.

I waited by the door, along with Kedar, trying to hide my increasing anxiety. What if Jonadab couldn’t convince Amnon to come? After all, Amnon knows me as well as anyone, and, truly, he would be a fool to trust me. I could only hope that imbecile, Jonadab, could convince him of my sincerity in wanting to heal the rift between us. The very thought made me gag. Jonadab would need to be pretty convincing in his deceit, but he was good at that.

Then–I saw them. Walking together, Jonadab seemed to be his usual animated self while Amnon walked silently beside him. My brothers behind me were in a boisterous mood, but I hardly heard them as I kept my eyes on my prize. Then I looked over at Kedar who was also watching the two coming towards us.

“Is it him?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” I murmured. “You already know the loud-mouth next to him, but the other is Amnon.”

When they were close enough to make out their faces, Kedar raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “He is much like you–your brother.”

My face tightened, and I nodded. Yes, people often commented on that. Though we had different mothers, our eyes and facial features were quite similar, and many people could only tell us apart by our hair. My hair was often compared to a lion’s mane because of its thickness and rapid growth while Amnon kept his lighter colored hair cut short, almost shaven. Though I could see it was now much longer than usual, it still was nothing compared to mine.

I plastered a huge smile on my face as Jonadab and Amnon approached us. Amnon seemed to shrink back at the sight of me, but Jonadab kept a firm grip on his elbow and kept him moving forward.

“Brother!” I called out, then pulled Amnon to me in a tight hug. “It has been too long!”

“Amnon has missed being with his brothers, Absalom,” Jonadab said in a loud voice. “We are both grateful for this invitation.”

“Well, come on in. Ramiah will show you to your seats.” I turned to motion to Ramiah, but he was already at Amnon’s side, leading him and Jonadab to their seats.

I watched them–Jonadab strutting past my brothers and Amnon slinking behind him. My brothers had become quiet–only nodding to Jonadab who called out loud greetings–then looking gravely at Amnon who said nothing.

Once they were seated, one of my brothers called out for more wine and another asked, “When is the food going to be ready, Brother? We are starving here!”

As the laughter rang out, I ordered the servants to pour more wine (they had instructions not to water the wine unless asked) and assured my brothers the food would be ready soon. “Patience, my brothers. Good food must be cooked to perfection.” Before they could make more demands, I left the tent–ostensibly to check on the food, but actually to make sure Kedar and Ramiah were ready. They were, and it was finally time to put my plan into play.

From the back of the tent, I gave a nod to Jonadab, and he casually rose from his seat and left the tent just as two of my servants began bringing in baskets of bread and platters of roasted vegetables.

“Come on, Brother!” bellowed one of my brothers. “Where’s the meat?”

With the wine flowing freely, my brothers were getting louder–laughing and teasing one another. Since I wanted them drunk, this brought me some satisfaction (though I knew a fine line existed before they became belligerent and more demanding) until I noticed two exceptions: my two younger brothers, Solomon and Shammua. Both were quiet and seemed not to be drinking as much as the others. I frowned, wondering what could be wrong with that sanctimonious Solomon. I should go over to them and encourage them to drink more, but that would probably only arouse suspicions and, besides, it was far too late for that. Time for execution.

My servants were ready to bring in the roasted lamb, so I nodded for them to come on. My eyes met those of Kedar, and he nodded his readiness. The servants brought in the lamb and my brothers cheered, though one said something about ‘where was something for the others?’

As soon as my brothers began diving into the lamb, Kedar and Ramiah came in behind Amnon. They each grabbed him by an arm and pulled him up, then Kedar drove his knife into my oldest brother’s chest. Amnon looked up at me, and I smiled, watching the shock, then the light fade from his eyes. So great was my pleasure, I was barely aware of my other brothers as–in a flurry–they all jumped up as if the tent was on fire, almost trampling each other as they raced out of the tent.

Once they were gone, my servants and I began to act quickly. We made sure the oil lamps were all put out, then began gathering up the cushions, cups, etc.

“We should be away, my lord,” Kedar said to me, cleaning off his knife.

I nodded, looking around the tent with both pride and contentment. Jonadab would soon be telling my father how I had killed all his sons, and it wouldn’t be long before the great king sent men here. I would be going to my grandfather’s, along with Kedar and Ramiah. I had other servants assigned to take care of the food and take down the tent. Two others would attend to my brother’s body and wait for my father’s men to arrive.

“Very well,” I said. “Let us be off.” I took a last look at my brother’s face before my servants covered it. “Be at peace, Brother,” I said softly. “Your debt is now paid.”

Soli Deo gloria

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part 6 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week’s post, here is part five: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/25/my-name-is-absalom-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

 

After many obstacles and hindrances, I finally began to formulate my plans for revenge. A knife in the dark would probably be easiest, but not nearly as satisfying. No, my revenge must be public as well as complete. I not only wanted my brother to know of my hatred, but also my father. If he had done his duty as a father by protecting Tamar–or failing that, in punishing Amnon–I could have, perhaps, forgiven him. Not that he seemed to want or need my forgiveness. He seemed to have pushed the whole incident from his mind, like an unpleasant taste or a childhood illness. Something difficult and heart-wrenching at the time, but now in the past and best forgotten. But, I would not forget if for no other reason than this: Tamar would certainly never forget.

You may be wondering how Tamar fared by this time. Since she still did not want to leave my home, even to visit our sisters and mother, I made plans for her to visit our grandfather, our mother’s father. As I said earlier, my mother’s father is king of the small country, Geshur, and Tamar could feel both comfortable and cared for there. I wanted my mother to accompany her (I needed both of them out of the city), and though at first she balked at this suggestion (why must she be so difficult?), she eventually consented. Not for any concern for Tamar, but rather because of her own present difficulties at the palace. She never felt she received enough respect there, and since the incident with Tamar, things had only gotten worse. The other wives (with the exception of Amnon’s mother who pretended nothing had changed) tried to express sympathy to her, but she flared up at their offers of “pity.” Also, as my mother could not bring herself to express much compassion toward Tamar, this caused the other wives to go from sympathy to puzzlement to scorn. Anyway, once I had both my mother and Tamar conveniently out of the way, I began to finalize my plans.

My brothers and I all had our own pieces of land where we raised sheep, wheat, barley, and a few even had their own bee hives. With the weather turning warmer and the rains ceasing, the time to begin sheep-shearing was upon us. My brothers often shared chores with each other, so I decided to ask my brothers to come and help me with my sheep-shearing. To make manifest my generous and forgiving spirit, I would promise to first give them a big dinner and to even include Amnon and our father.

Since my brothers and I had not been on the friendliest of terms, I needed to find a way to ask them that would seem casual, yet deliberate; friendly and non-threatening. For some reason, my brothers didn’t totally trust me and a friendly gesture from me could possibly be construed as suspicious. It’s true I didn’t often invite them over for a meal, but again, sheep-shearing was a chore often shared, so, hopefully, they would just see it as my way of getting free labor. Or cheap labor. I would be providing a meal, after all.

Since I needed some help, I decided to make use of Jonadab and his eagerness to be of any assistance and to somehow make amends for his part in my sister’s tragedy. Not that I thought for a moment he truly wanted to make amends except as a way to get in my good graces, but having him at my side would lessen my brothers’ suspicions, and I also needed him to convince Amnon to come.

Obviously, after spending almost two years avoiding Amnon and having nothing good to say about him, it would be difficult for me to just saunter up to him and say, “Hey, Brother! Long time, no see. How about coming over to my place for dinner?” No, even Amnon wasn’t that gullible. But, as Jonadab so aptly put it, for whatever reason, Amnon did trust him, so if anyone could convince Amnon to come to a dinner with all his brothers at my invitation, it would have to be Jonadab.

I found several of my brothers at target practice one morning (thanks to Jonadab who ran to my house with the news). One of my younger brothers, Solomon, was showing off a bow he made during the rainy months, and, of course, I couldn’t resist issuing him a small challenge. The kid takes things too seriously, and I knew he would be eager to try and beat me. He is smart in some ways, but dumb in so many others. I mean, I’m a warrior and was pulling bows before he could even pull himself up. I don’t think a new bow, no matter how well he made it, is going to be much of a test for my superior skills. Still, a little competition between brothers keeps things interesting and could make my brothers believe I wanted to be part of the family again.

After spending a couple of hours with my brothers shooting arrows, (I was on one team and Solomon on the other), I decided to end the match and extended the dinner invitation to my brothers. As I had feared, they first expressed skepticism, but I pleaded with them, telling them I thought it would be good for us to get together and have some family time, blah, blah. Seriously? Family time? I suppose I’m lucky they didn’t laugh in my face, but I finally managed to convince them of my sincerity. I’m sure it helped when I added I would help them later with their own sheep.

Jonadab and I left together, Jonadab wanting to jabber the whole way while I preferred to rethink and go over every detail of my plan. But I had to make sure Jonadab knew his part and was ready to play it, so I let him talk, only half listening.

“Did you see Solomon’s face when you asked them all to dinner? And Adonijah’s? Especially when you said you planned to ask Amnon, too? They both looked like they had drunk some sour wine. Do you think they’ll really come? And are you really going to ask Uncle David to come?”

I smiled, reliving the moments of my brothers’ faces when I said I intended to ask Amnon to the dinner. “Oh, they’ll come all right. A free meal? A chance to see if me and Amnon will reconcile? You just better make sure you get Amnon to come. And, yes, I will ask my father, though I know he won’t come.”

My mind continued to race with the details of my plan. Inviting my father would be a bit tricky, and it was hard for me to decide if I wanted him to come or not. Since he would not come alone (having at least one guard, if not several), my plan’s chance of success would be greater without him. However, without him there, I would never have the satisfaction of seeing his face when he learned what I had done to his beloved eldest son.

We came to where we needed to part ways that Jonadab might make his way to Amnon’s house, and I would go on to my own home. I turned to face Jonadab, grabbing one of his shoulders.

“I will expect to hear from you tomorrow about how you fared with Amnon. No one, and I mean, no one had better suspect a thing.”

Jonadab nodded, his pain from my grip on his shoulder evident on his face, though he tried to mask it. “Don’t worry, Absalom. I know how to talk to Amnon, and I would never betray you.”

I smirked at that. Did he really think I trusted him? My little weasel of a cousin had his uses, but I was not such a fool as to trust someone who turned his affections as quickly as this one. A pity for Amnon that he trusted him, but that’s what happened when you committed such a heinous crime against someone in your own family. It left you with few friends.

“I will see you tomorrow,” I said, releasing his shoulder with a final push, then turned from him to walk home.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 4 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part three last week, here’s your chance to catch up: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/11/my-name-is-absalom-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/

It took almost two years for me to exact my revenge. Tamar continued to live with me and refused to go out in public. Though my father tried to enforce some type of peace between Amnon and myself, we avoided each other and never took part in family dinners together. I wondered sometimes at my father’s naivete. He seemed to think he could just tell me and Amnon to give each other the kiss of friendship as he did after we had quarreled as boys. That never worked then and would certainly not work now.

For at least six months, my father (and others, I’m sure) kept a close eye on me. Though I did not hide my anger, I let people think I was willing to let God exact revenge on my brother and had no intention of causing more trouble in Jerusalem. In this way, my father’s vigilance eventually relaxed, and I had time to begin carefully laying my plans.

The only person I’m sure I never fooled was my mother. Though she said no more about expecting Tamar to marry Amnon, she made little effort to see her daughter or expressed any concern for her. I felt she was an unnatural mother at times, but I kept my thoughts focused on Amnon and on how I could have my revenge in the most promising way.

Before I could get very far with my plans, I knew I needed to gain the trust of Jonadab– not only to learn of his possible complicity, but also to use him for my own advantage. To even establish contact with him, however, took me almost a year. Though still unsure of his part in the defiling of my sister, whenever he saw me–even from a distance–he cringed in fear and would not come near me, so I knew his guilt must be great. Surprisingly, it turned out to be Chileab who let me know exactly what Jonadab had done.

Chileab often came to my home for a meal, an event Tamar looked forward to as Chileab remained one of the few people with whom she felt at ease. I was grateful for his willingness to visit us on a regular basis as Tamar seemed to have few pleasures left in life. Though it had only been a few months since her ordeal, I still hoped she would heal in her mind and someday be once again the sister I adored and cherished. As I watched her this particular evening, laughing and talking to Chileab, that hope burned brighter than usual.

After our meal, the three of us went up and onto my roof to enjoy the cool evening while my servants cleaned up below. After an hour or so, Tamar said she was tired, gave both Chileab and myself a kiss, then went back down to her bedchamber. Chileab and I sat in silence for several minutes, nursing our cup of wine and watching the stars. I caught myself dozing off when Chileab spoke.

“She seems a little better tonight. How has she been faring?”

I sighed, thinking again of the care-free, laughing young girl Tamar had been a few short months ago. “She is calmer–seems to cry less often–but she still won’t go out at all, and that can’t be good for her. She did finally let Elisheba and Naarah visit her a couple of days ago. Hopefully, they will be able to coax her out of her shell a bit more.” Elisheba was Chileab’s sister and Naarah, Adonijah’s. They both were quite close to Tamar.

Chileab nodded. “Elisheba told me. She was glad Tamar finally agreed to let them visit, but was rather forlorn when she came home. She misses the ‘old Tamar,’ but I told her she must be patient.”

“It is hard to be patient. I just want to go and smash Amnon’s head in. What was he thinking anyway? Don’t you think if he had just asked Father if he could marry Tamar that Father would have agreed?”

Chileab said nothing for a few moments, then, “Maybe, but I think he was afraid Tamar would not accept him, but if Jonadab hadn’t . . .” He stopped, glanced over at me, then looked down.

As I said, I knew of Jonadab’s presence in Amnon’s house, and was eager to learn exactly why he was there. Chileab’s look of guilt confirmed to me that Jonadab had something to hide. Anyone but Chileab would be dying to tell me every detail they knew and even those they didn’t. But that was Chileab–noble through and through. Could be rather sickening, actually.

“What about Jonadab?” I asked slowly and in a low voice.

Chileab squirmed a bit, but he knew I would not let him leave until I heard what he knew. If Chileab knew, then so did others, and I would rather hear it from him than anyone else.

“It was his idea,” he finally answered, his voice low as well. “We all knew Amnon was moping around, whining about how beautiful Tamar is but how she only laughed at him and saw him as a ‘silly boy.’ Finally one evening, Jonadab told him he should stop moping and do something. I thought he was going to suggest–as you said–to go to Father and ask to marry Tamar. I was late for choir practice, so I left before he made his suggestion. It wasn’t until the next day that I heard Amnon played sick, and Father went to see him.”

He stopped again, obviously reluctant to continue, but I needed to know. I could no more ignore the part Jonadab played in this story than I could ignore my need for food. If I was to have revenge for Tamar’s honor, I must make sure of everyone involved.

As casually as I could, I said, “I know Father commanded Tamar to go and wait on Amnon. I have never understood that, and he refuses to discuss it with me. I’m sure he realizes how stupid it was, but that changes nothing. I can’t believe Father would be taken in by either Amnon or Jonadab. So, Amnon pretended he was sick? And, I suppose the only thing that would make him feel better would be Tamar coming to wait on him. Tamar already told me Jondab was there, so you are not telling me something totally new. She has wondered as well what part Jonadab had in this.”

I added the last because I knew Chileab would feel Tamar had a right to know the truth about Jonadab even if he wasn’t so sure I did. I can be sneaky that way.

Chileab looked up at me, and though there remained little light left from our flickering oil lamps, I could see he was studying me carefully. “Perhaps the less she knows, the better,” he said cautiously.

I shook my head, trying not to appear too eager or impatient. “Right now, she fears almost everyone. It would be better if she could just see this as something concocted by Jonadab and Amnon and that no one else was involved–including our father.” Even though I would still blame my father for his part, I saw no need for Tamar to carry that burden as well.

Chileab nodded slowly, taking in my words. “I agree our father behaved foolishly and irresponsibly, but I don’t believe he ever meant for any harm to come to Tamar. You must make her see that.”

I shrugged, still tamping down my impatience. I was beginning to see Jonadab’s part in this, but still wanted Chileab to confirm it. I would not want my revenge to be incomplete.

Chileab frowned, but said, “Very well. Yes, from what I’ve heard, the whole thing was Jonadab’s idea. He told Amnon he should pretend to be sick, then when our father came to see him, he should tell him that the only thing he wanted was for Tamar to come and wait on him. Now, whether Jonadab meant for things to go as far as they did, I cannot say. Of course, Jonadab is saying he did not mean for Amnon to do what he did. He just thought if Amnon had a chance to be alone with Tamar, he could then convince her of his love.”

I took a long swallow of my wine. I could almost believe that, but that hardly made Jonadab innocent. “Of course,” I said, my thoughts darker than ever. I would need to have words with Jonadab. Soon. Very soon.

Book Review: “Then Sings My Soul” by Amy K. Sorrells

Nel Stewart hasn’t been home in years when her mother’s sudden death brings her back to Michigan from Arizona. Her father’s deep grief and oncoming dementia causes Nel to stay longer than she originally intended. Together, Nel and Jakob work through their present pain as well as learn to deal with their past griefs.

Using alternating story lines, Sorrells tells Jakob’s story of his escape from the Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, a story Nel never knew. We also learn Nel’s story of why she left home and the significance of Jakob’s hobby of the lapidary arts.

I was immediately drawn into this book because of the historical descriptions of a time and place I know little about (the Ukraine and the Jewish pogroms). The use of the lapidary arts was also an interesting addition, giving insight to the characters–their backgrounds and their interests.

From the title, I thought it was going to be a book about the song, “How Great Thou Art”, but it’s not; exactly. The author explains the meaning behind the title at the end, so make sure you read that. Highly recommended!

 

 

Biblical Fiction: Dead or Alive?

At the writers conference I attended in March, I had an opportunity to meet with someone who is the head of a Christian agency and well known in Christian publishing. I didn’t go with the plan of talking with him, so was pretty proud of myself for taking the plunge. I knew it would be a good experience, both to speak with him and to hear his thoughts on the book I’m writing. Now, I was not expecting much–no, I really didn’t think I would tell him about my story, he would respond with delight, and hand me a contract on the spot. The dream is there but I was feeling pretty realistic. However, I have spent a bit of time thinking over some of the things he said, and I have to admit, I am still puzzled by his attitude.

His first response to my pitch of “I’ve written an historical novel about Solomon growing up in King David’s palace,” was “People aren’t reading Biblical fiction. That just doesn’t sell, and no one is publishing it.”

I was stunned and, yes, I’m a bit of a slow thinker, so it wasn’t until I was back in my hotel room that I thought: “What about Tessa Afshar? Ginger Garrett? Connilyn Cossette? Francine Rivers? Jill Eileen Smith? Stephanie Landsem? Mesu Andrews? These writers may not be on the New York Times bestseller list, but they are all publishing Biblical fiction and doing reasonably well. I am currently reading Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence, am enjoying it, and believe it is very well written. 

Did I misunderstand him? No, the conversation went on from there as he explained the ups and downs of Biblical fiction and told me why no one was interested in that any more. Of course, I tried to tell him that my book was special and many people would be interested in it and love to read it. Well, I didn’t exactly say all that, but I did spend more time telling him of my story, but I did not leave with a positive impression.

Looking through the authors I mentioned above, I found they were published by six different publishers, so there seems to be quite a few publishers still interested in these books.

So, am I wrong, and is he right? Are people not interested in reading Biblical fiction? What about you? Have you read any of these authors lately? Have you any others to add and recommend?