The Evangelical Novel Comes Of Age

It is good to see evangelical novels come of age—writers choosing to write about real people with real conflicts rather than hiding behind cardboard characters and sloppy, overwritten craft. Until now it seems as though evangelical novelists have buried their talents in fantasy and romance genres because these forms make it easy to avoid the knotty issues of dealing with unlovely human nature and showing the ordinary, even mundane ways grace appears.

That is not to say that evangelicals have not produced some wonderful and sophisticated fantasy novels and romances. Stephen Lawhead’s trilogy, The Pendragon Cycle, is a case in point. His character, Merlin, is a finely drawn, complicated personality. But in fantasies, human conflicts typically become wars between a good king and an evil wizard. In the following novels the conflicts arise between people who carry the good and evil, like wheat and tares, inside them.

Grace Under A Big Sky

From before he married Ezra’s mother, Johnny “wanted a son … someone he could put on a horse and everyone would know that that was Johnny Riley’s boy. Johnny wanted to reproduce himself.” In The Breaking of Ezra Riley (Lion, 192 pp.; $9.95, paper), author John Moore tells the story of a son who, despite his efforts, is unable to follow in his father’s footsteps. Upon graduation from high school, Ezra Riley admits defeat and walks out of town, his bedroll slung over his back. Too much has gone wrong between father and son.

Ezra thought of his father as someone “who commanded attention: when he walked into a bar everyone turned and greeted him.” But there was also a dark side, “the man who screamed ...

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