Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner

For the past few days, a discussion thread with the American Christian Fiction Writers has been discussing and debating what men might like in Christian fiction. One post, naturally from a man, bemoaned the number of books with a cover containing a young woman in a gingham dress standing in a field. He made a heartfelt plea for stories with exploding helicopters, stuff that guys are supposed to like. I had to laugh.

But he had a point. There are a lot of Christian novels with covers depicting a young woman in a gingham dress standing in a field. Sometimes she has a cap on her head, so you know there's an Amish connection. Sometimes she's bareheaded. The color of the hair changes, as does the color of the dress (and sometimes it's not gingham). But it's almost as if a lot of Christian novels share the same book cover designers, if not the same story lines. The stories do change, but you woudn't think so by looking at the book covers. (Go to a Barnes & Noble or your local Christian bookstore, and see for yourself.)

I was following the discussion thread while reading what would, at first glance, fall into the cartegory of "fiction for women." I've posted a review of Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy at Amazon, and I won't repeat it here. I liked it; Meissner is a good writer who tells a good story. In this one, she mingles a story of Salem witch trials with a modern-day college student and an aging woman who's trying to forgive herself for something she did more than 60 years before.

There were no exploding helicopters, secret agents or antiChrists taking over the planet, all that stuff that's supposed to appeal to guys. But there was a good story, and that's what appealing to all readers, be they men or women. Tell a good story, and tell it well, and even guys won't miss an exploding helicopter.

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