An unassuming woman who works a day job at a Catholic publishing house and is published by a Southern Baptist house is helping to transform Christian fiction. It's a touch surprising that Christians are embracing Vinita Hampton Wright because she is, in a word, edgy. She doesn't serve up the predictable, feel-good Christian story of conversion and happily-ever-after, and her novels disturb as much as comfort.

Her first novel, Grace at Bender Springs, got a mixed review in Christianity Today, but it was praised by other critics and devoured by readers. Her second novel garnered more attention, earning Wright, 43, a two-page spread in Publishers Weekly.

Wright's three novels—the third is in progress—follow three theological themes, though Wright says that is something of an accident.

"I wrote Bender Springs," Wright says ruefully, "as my way of getting out of taking comprehensive exams." Enrolled in a now defunct graduate degree in communications at Wheaton College, Wright had the option of undertaking some giant creative project instead of subjecting herself to comps. The choice was easy: I hate exams! Wright thought. And this will be the excuse for me to write something creative.

But Wheaton students weren't permitted to undertake just any creative project: their novel, or play, or poetry chapbook had to deal with some theological theme. Wright was musing over what slice of theology she might like to explore in fiction when she went to see Miss Firecracker, a movie starring Holly Hunter and Scott Glenn. "It was a movie very much with the quality of a play," Wright says. "It had intense dialogue and intense characters." Many things went wrong for Hunter's rather pathetic character. For his part, "Glenn was attractive in a sort ...

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April 23, 2001

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