The question this week...You have a good friend who is a devoted Christian and voracious reader. He or she, however, tried to read a Christian fiction book in the past and found it to be too preachy and unrealistic. Your friend wants to try it again and has asked you for a recommendation. Their favorite genre of book is what is considered literary fiction. What book would you recommend to them?
You also have a friend who is not a Christian but wants to read fiction that is considered clean without being too Christian. They have asked you if there are Christian fiction books that might meet their reading needs. They are interested in romance and novels. What book would you recommend to them?
I would recommend Lynn Austin to both. That's the short answer. First because Lynn Austin's writing has depth and substance. It's good--plain and simple. She's really the only Christian fiction author I'd recommend to non-Christians because I think her work can stand on its own, speak for itself. I think it is just as good--if not better--than other books on the market even the 'secular' market. Her characters are so well done, so authentic; her books have heart and soul.
I really really dislike the term literary fiction. Because it supposes that everything else is not literary. Of course, I'm coming from the bias that so-called "literary-fiction" is boring and senselessly in love with itself. Puffed up. Nonsensically so. It's all look-at-me, look-at-me, aren't I sophisticated? If you can understand it, it's trash. Why be honest and heartfelt when you can be pointless and ambiguous...
The definition found in wikipedia is that it focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character...and if that is really, truly the case...then it is much broader in scope, so enveloping that its touch is felt in each and every genre. I don't think that's the intent of those proudly bearing the label. They don't want to be associated with genres. They're above and beyond. They're the Sneeches with stars upon thars. (I can only think of TWO books that would exemplify that definition...the definition of Wikipedia...THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston and FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley.) So you've either got to make the definition so narrow that 98% of books don't qualify...or you've got to accept that it's too broad and that you can't lock genres out at all...without revealing your own stupidity.
This isn't quite here or there. But I'd add this. I think this label is something that time and time alone should determine. It is if a book stands the test of time, if it stays in print, if it stays relevant, if it stays in people's hearts and minds...that really and truly lets you know that something is good enough, great enough to wear the hat of being "literary."
Personally, I'm all about the characters. I am. I think characterization is the heart of any novel. If you don't have well-developed characters, human characters with heart and soul, characters that are authentic whose voices sound so true, characters that you feel like you've gotten to know intimately, characters that you can love or hate or relate to in some way...then it's not a good book. It can be entertaining in some way or another. But you can't love a book if the characters aren't there for you. You just can't. But here's the thing good characters can be found everywhere--they're abundant...they can be found in board books, picture books, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, poetry, science fiction, historical, romance, mystery, whatever the genre...you can always find GOOD if not GREAT if not WONDERFULLY AMAZING books that you love and adore.