So, while perusing Library Journal the other day for collection development purposes, I happened upon a full-page ad for something that piqued my personal interest right away.
I love fiction, always have. I like regular old romance fiction, I like romantic suspense and other mystery thrillers. But I've always had a soft spot (as is unsurprising) for religious fiction. And the thing is, titles in religious fiction that I consider to be "keepers" are harder to come by than I'd like. This is all just personal opinion, but it seems to me that a noticeable number of authors of Christian fiction are not able to craft a good story intertwined with the moral worldview they are putting forth. For whatever reason, the stories just don't "work" for me sometimes. They're either too preachy without enough character development, or too much intensive action without enough attention to the characters' faith lives. And trying to find contemporary Catholic fiction...good heavens, the field is more parched than Hank after a 30 minute toddler meltdown. I'll address that in a future post. I have no qualms with reading Christian fiction based on a non-Catholic belief system, and there certainly is a proliferation of such titles. Christian fiction is a hot genre, certainly; just take a perusal over at Christian Book Distributors. But as a Catholic, I'm just selective about which titles I choose to read.
The apocalypse? I'm not opposed to that :) But Left Behind? Absolutely, positively no way. I will not support authors who are so brazenly anti-Catholic. That's an extreme example, however. There's some good non-Catholic Christian stuff out there in the form of fiction. I actually really loved Jan Karon's Mitford series, particularly At Home in Mitford, all featuring a good-natured Episcopalian priest ministering in a small North Carolina town. And I know exactly why. I like contemporary stories of people of faith in everyday situations that I can relate to. I don't really read deep theological treatises. Even that is an overstatement; I don't read them at all, ok? :) Personal stories, those are my things. Both in fiction and non-fiction.
So, back to my original train of thought, sorry about that. The train is so very often derailed these days...This ad in Library Journal. It was about a new book in the (apparently) very popular sub-genre of Amish fiction. Yes, Amish fiction. Did you ever? I was captivated even by the cover image. Brought to mind were feelings of simplicity, serenity and unpretentiousness. This particular title is the debut of a new author and is the first in the Kauffman Amish Bakery series. Well. I immediately leapt into super librarian mode and checked the public library catalog (my best friend). They're ordering it. God knows that I need to work on the virtue of patience, but I was on the trail of a fascinating new book, He understands. Thus, I zoomed right over to Amazon to be greeted with positive reviews. I read them, and checked out the author's website.
I was utterly charmed by my whole research process. As soon as I sat down to dinner with my husband, I told him of my new find. His reply? "Amish fiction? How many people can possibly be reading them, I mean, there's not that many Amish people..." "No, no, honey. They're about Amish people and/or set in Amish country, but they're not marketed to the Amish. They're marketed to people like me!!" Freaks? Super bookworm religious librarians?
No :) Amish fiction is hot stuff, people. It's like... one of the bestselling trends within Christian fiction. Time magazine even featured an article about it recently. The next day, upon sitting down with my tea, I did what all curiosity seekers with a new obsession do. I Googled it. I happened upon a fabulous blog that I've bookmarked, My Christian Fiction Blog. The author has a whole series of posts dedicated to Amish Fiction. Why do people (Christians, mostly) like to read these books? They call to mind a simple life, quiet, genuine faith, and close community. In other words, they make us happy. They help us to escape. And apparently, there are some prolific authors within this genre that are fantastic storytellers. I learned about Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, Mary Ellis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Beth Wiseman.
Naturally, I had to look them all up on the public library catalog and on Amazon, and my obsession reached its zenith. The public library also knows how popular these books are, and they had the full run of Beverly Lewis's books, many of them checked out. On my lunch hour, I rushed over to scoop up the first 2 books in one of her short series', this one called Annie's People, and away I went. I *love* it. I'm utterly in love with the writing style and the characters. In this particular series, an Amish girl is trying to decide between officially joining the church of her birth and her love of art, which her faith prohibits. Her non-Amish pen pal is on the run from a bad relationship and comes to stay with Annie's family for a time. Annie is sorting through her feelings about her faith, her future, and is dealing with some other personal problems and mysteries present within her Amish community. Totally, totally hooked. Love, love, love. My Amazon wish list is now burgeoning over with new Amish titles. I also treated myself to the original book that brought on this happy enterprise, A Gift of Grace by Amy Clipston. I justified it by telling myself that I needed 1 more title to garner me free shipping on Amazon anyway; I was already ordering the latest in the John Paul II High series (not a prayer that the public library is going to have that one) and a CD for my husband. I am one happy librarian...