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Homesar Runner
05-21-2005, 06:43 PM
I'm a newbie, and if this question has been done to death already, perhaps someone knowledgeable can give me a link to the thread where that happened.

Otherwise, I'd like not only to pose the question itself, but to ask whether Jan Karon's Mitford series is (or is not) part of the Christian fiction genre. I've read several of the series (not finished them all yet). And, rummaging around this site, I've turned up someone's comment that the Mitford series is "contemporary/mainstream." That surprised me. It also surprised me that Karon's work hasn't (as I can tell!) been mentioned in the Christian fiction category.

Hence my question.

I'm mulling over to write something which some would say is similar to Karon's series, but from my point of view is significantly different. But, as I'm stewing, I thought I'd toss this query out on the table to see what kinds of answers it attracts.

Homesar

trebuchet
05-21-2005, 06:57 PM
Homesar -

I'm new to this Christian fiction idea myself. I've never read or even heard of the Mitford series, but I'm going to check it out now. Your question brings to mind a related question . . . genre crossing. If the Christian message is subtle, couldn't it be that there's more than one Christian book in the mainstream, and wouldn't that be a good thing for a writer who wanted to share that message with the mainstream?

I'm a newcomer to these forums myself, so I apologize if this has been dealt with a million times already. :)

Homesar Runner
05-21-2005, 08:09 PM
I'm new to this Christian fiction idea myself. I've never read or even heard of the Mitford series, but I'm going to check it out now.

In a nutshell, the Mitford series of novels are set in Mitford, a small town in the Southeast United States. The main character is Father Tim Kavanaugh, an Episcopal priest. He's a bachelor in the first book, and the series follows his life as he meets and marries a neighbor, and they deal with all sorts of small-town characters and their dramas in that setting. Overall, the books are definately of the "gentle read" variety, something no blue-haired matron could ever find objectionable. Jan Karon, the author, has a website promoting the books (which have a fairly hefty following, I take it). You can get more information at the site. I'd suggest this page, which gives a brief profile of the books in the series:

http://www.mitfordbooks.com/books.asp

I began reading them (1) because I have been an Episcopalian for longer than I have been any other "variety" of Christian, (2) my friends -- both Episcopalian and otherwise -- were reading and recommending them, and (3) I have recently transmogrified from an Episcopal layman to an Anglican cleric. Finding myself (in the gross features) somewhat similar to Father Kavanaugh, I have read some of the books in the series with the kind of interest that this similarity generates.


Your question brings to mind a related question . . . genre crossing. If the Christian message is subtle, couldn't it be that there's more than one Christian book in the mainstream, and wouldn't that be a good thing for a writer who wanted to share that message with the mainstream?

It depends on what you mean by "share the message," I suppose; and, that issue would partly illuminate the meaning of "Christian fiction" when applied to modern novels. I supposed that Karon's work would be "Christian fiction" (and, maybe it is), but found no one around here talking about it in those terms (or, even, talking about them at all!). Are Lewis' Naria novellas Christian fiction? I imagine many would say so, including Lewis. Tolkien, on the other hand, likely would NOT have claimed his work was "Christian fiction" in the sense that most people today would use the term.

But, about genre-crossing work -- yes, I can imagine murder mysteris, fantasies, science fiction, and similar genres could have a Christian fiction variant.

Still, I must confess that I have never sought to read Christian fiction, though I've become aware that it's "out there." I'm wanting to learn what the distinguishing features of this genre are. Maybe someone really knowledgeable will step forth and illumine us.

Homesar

Betty W01
05-22-2005, 01:19 AM
Excellent question. I do know that people who wouldn't touch a so-called "Christian fiction" book (my mom, my Jewish bookstore owner friend) read and enjoy Karon (although the store owner admitted that the first time around, she simply skipped over the Bible verses in them).

Personally, I tend to think of "Christian fiction" as being a book that has a strong evangelical message woven into the story (and in some less-well-written ones, taking over the story or even being told instead of the story), whereas in mainstream fiction, it's only in passing (the person is a Christian, but that's not the focus). Jane Kirkpatrick writes what I'd call mainstream; I just read and reviewed her latest book, A Land of Sheltered Promise, and it was chock full of Bible verses, but they were not the focus, the history of the Big Muddy Ranch as seen through the eyes of three women over 100 years was the foucs, the Bible verses were part of each of their lives in a natural way. Well done and an interesting read.

Does anyone have a clearer (or better!) definition than that?

Betty W01
05-22-2005, 01:19 AM
Excellent question. I do know that people who wouldn't touch a so-called "Christian fiction" book (my mom, my Jewish bookstore owner friend) read and enjoy Karon (although the store owner admitted that the first time around, she simply skipped over the Bible verses in them).

Personally, I tend to think of "Christian fiction" as being a book that has a strong evangelical message woven into the story (and in some less-well-written ones, taking over the story or even being told instead of the story), whereas in mainstream fiction, it's only in passing (the person is a Christian, but that's not the focus). Jane Kirkpatrick writes what I'd call mainstream; I just read and reviewed her latest book, A Land of Sheltered Promise, and it was chock full of Bible verses, but they were not the focus. The focus was the history of the Big Muddy Ranch as seen through the eyes of three women over a century's time and the Bible verses were part of each of their lives in a natural way. Well done and an interesting read.

Does anyone have a clearer (or better!) definition than that?