Babe’s Bible: Gorgeous Grace
Karen Jones (Darton, Longman, Todd, ISBN 978-0232529203)
A couple of years ago I examined Christian fiction for Christian Marketplace, the then magazine of the trade. Before this article, I would read Christian novels here and there, forcing myself to pick them up with a hint of disdain. But reading twenty or so books in one go opened my eyes and rid me of any condescension. These books known as Christian fiction (those published expressly by Christian publishers, mostly coming out of the States) had matured. Characters felt real and authentic. Plot-lines no longer seemed false, such as last-chapter conversions. I found myself reading these books not only when I had to – for reviews – but now because I wanted to.
Gorgeous Grace, the first installment of Babe’s Bible, not only doesn’t fit my previous view about Christian fiction but in the first couple of pages explodes any stereotypes. In fact, I’m not sure if would have continued reading if I hadn’t seen a review by Jennifer Rees Larcombe, a Christian author I trust. For the book opens with a group of women enjoying an evening out, fueled with wine and flirting, and continues with scenes of, shall we say, a sexual nature.
Should so-called Christian books include sex, drinking, smoking, and the like? It’s an interesting question to consider. In the States, for instance, a debate has raged over what has been called censorship as a major conservative evangelical bookstore chain has refused to stock a book which refers to the author’s vagina. Those against claim they want their books “clean,” while those for say that it’s an anatomically correct way to refer to a woman’s private parts.
At first I wondered if the sex and stuff in this book was gratuitous – a way to draw in an unsuspecting reader. But having read further along, I saw that the author’s treatment is helpful, for it shows the consequences of sin, such as how adultery can rip apart families and communities and yet how God can bring healing.
You’re probably wondering what the novel is about! A modern-day woman is ordained in the Church of England and in her curacy finds herself amid a pastoral breakdown. Her outlet is to write fictional accounts of some of the women in the New Testament, including the woman caught in the act of adultery. As she writes, she finds the biblical story speaking into the real-life crisis – including the hurts from her own life that she had buried years ago.
Not everyone will agree with the author’s biblical treatment, but I enjoyed how she brought the days of Jesus alive and fleshed out some minor characters. I felt her writing was strongest, however, in the story of the curate and her friends.
What do you think – should fiction published by a Christian publisher pass a so-called clean test? Why or why not? Have you read Gorgeous Grace, or the second in the trilogy, Sister Acts? If so, what did you think?
(Note to my friends outside of the UK: I’m afraid these books aren’t readily available outside these isles… Sorry.)