It’s Something Novel For Me . . .

I read a lot, but I don’t read a lot of fiction; as what I suppose is an occupational hazard of a writing ministry, I read an enormous amount about theology, history, social sciences and feminism. Fiction has generally seemed to be an indulgence — I could be LEARNING, even LEARNING FOR THE CAUSE OF MINISTRY — and I have a hard time with the idea that I might ever glean anything useful for ministry while reading about people who don’t actually exist, and so cannot ever be put in my path to receive a New Testament.

I mean, how can I risk it????!!!!!

But I sense some evolution: One, the last couple of years have shown me that I can go “off-duty” without being “off-grace.” Two, as if to confirm the first, I’ve found some good stuff in the form of two novels I’ve just finished that are causing me to re-think my choice of late-night page-turning. (There’s real joy in finally accepting that being beloved of God doesn’t mean being indispensable to the proper running of God’s world . . . )

“The Condition” (Katherine Haigh) is a remarkably rich study of a family’s unraveling after a daughter’s non-frightening but complex medical diagnosis. It’s full of really interesting characters, some of whom you wish you could meet at a party, and the storytelling shattered marriages, private schools, and scuba diving) is as solid as the writing is graceful.

Kate Atkinson’s “One Good Turn” is a mystery unlike any mystery you’ve ever read, and most emphatically NOT a mystery in the sense represented by the impulse-buy racks of paperbacks at Rosauer’s and Rite Aid. It takes place in Scotland, and the background stories (Russian call girls, suburban housing developments, and kittens) are every bit as interesting as the actual mystery.

Good stuff, both of them, and easily ordered at Moscow’s BookPeople.

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