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Faith and second chances

BOOKS | Stories that (mostly) point to renewed hope

Faith and second chances
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Because Christianity is founded upon grace, it is sometimes called a “religion of second chances.” The idea of a second chance is also a powerful theme for novels about life, love, and faith.

In Autumn Lytle’s All That Fills Us, Melanie Ellis, suffering from anorexia, wakes up in the hospital after another fainting spell. Instead of attending therapy as her doctor suggests, she decides to hike cross-country from Michigan to Washington state. Pushing her body to its limits, she keeps coming dangerously close to collapse. Throughout her travels, Melanie sends postcards to an ex-boyfriend, contemplates her relationship with her mother, and tries to comprehend God’s love for her. Told in first person, Mel as narrator is a funny, likable heroine. Readers will root for her—if they can stomach her constant self-loathing.

Where the Road Bends by Rachel Fordham takes place in 1880 Iowa. To save her family farm. Norah King agrees to a marriage of convenience. Days before the wedding, she stumbles upon a gravely injured man on her property. Nora and the stranger, Quincy, become fast friends while he recuperates in her home. Not wanting to cause trouble with her betrothed, Quincy leaves as soon as he’s able. He settles in a new town and becomes a successful businessman, but he can’t forget Norah. When he realizes he inadvertently took something belonging to her, he returns to find her in dire circumstances. Mutual affection grows as they realize they’ve been given a second chance at happiness.

In The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels, Kendra Brennan tries to begin work on her second novel. But she’s having writer’s block after receiving an anonymous letter that criticized the details in her first book. Some characters were heavily inspired by real people, and she thought she had portrayed them ­honestly. But now she’s plagued with doubts about her own memories. Bartels’ lyrical style draws readers in, but the subject matter repels. Novels marketed by Christian publishers can include tough subjects like sexual assault and substance abuse, but readers would rightfully expect at least a hint at Christ’s redemptive power. Sadly, they’ll find none here.

Finally, in Dangerous Beauty (debuting Sept. 6) by Melissa Koslin, Mexican-born Liliana Vela escapes sex traffickers by hiding in a Texas truckstop bathroom. She’s trapped there until a stranger—mega-wealthy businessman Meric Toledan—rescues her. Realizing she faces deportation, Meric offers to marry her. Their impromptu union seems rash on his part, but as the story progresses, his actions make more sense. Liliana proves resourceful and resilient as she helps Meric flush out the mysterious person who tried to buy her. This page-turner contains scant spiritual content but the surprise ending satisfies.

Sandy Barwick

Sandy reviews Christian fiction and is a development officer on WORLD’s fundraising team. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute. She resides near Asheville, N.C.


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