There’s definitely a stigma attached to “Christian Lit” – to some people, the name of the genre suggests that these books are going to be preachy, moralizing, or evangelical. That’s why I stayed away from the genre for a long time, even though I consider myself both very religious and an omnivorous bookworm. I finally put my prejudice aside and decided to give a book in this genre a try – the Internet graciously furnished me with the suggestion of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.
I adored this book, and let me start by saying that you definitely do not be to be a Christian (or even religious) to enjoy the story. Listen to the description, and see why I found this 500-page saga so captivating.
Redeeming Love is a retelling of the Book of Hosea, set in the Old West in 1850. Angel has been working as a prostitute since her difficult childhood, making money the only way she knows how, and constantly dealing with feelings of emptiness and a lack of trust in her heart. On the other hand, there’s Michael Hosea, an honest and hardworking farmer who sees Angel one day in the street. Instantly, God speaks to Michael and tells him to marry her. Although deeply conflicted, Michael begins to work his way into Angel’s life, showing her love and trustworthiness that she’s never experienced before. Eventually he marries her – but not under the circumstances Angel would have wanted. While Michael tries to show her a nice life, Angel’s heart of stone only hardens in the face of her husband’s deep love and generosity. Just like in the biblical book of Hosea, Angel runs away numerous times, fearful of opening herself up to a love she might lose.
Will Michael’s patience be enough to break through Angel’s barriers? What about the virginal Miriam, who lives next door and would clearly be a much better match for Michael? Will his brother-in-law, Paul, a loose-cannon gold miner with a chip on his shoulder, ruin the relationship Michael has worked tirelessly to build?
Is Angel even capable of love?
Redeeming Love is a fulfilling, daring, don’t-want-to-turn-the-last-page novel. The Christian message is clear throughout, echoing that famous Corinthians quote, “Love is patient, love is kind.” Even if you’re not big on religious writing, this is a beautiful love story. It’s one romance that you don’t have to feel guilty about reading.
I have to say, I was shocked and impressed at Rivers’ ability to handle a very mature subject and still create a moral read that feels ‘good for your soul’. I’ll echo the message her publisher wrote in the beginning of the book and say that this story would be rated PG-13 if it were a movie – it’s not gratuitously graphic, but due to the nature of the material, there might be some parts that aren’t suited for middle-schoolers. In my opinion, the fact that this book is not overly innocent makes it even more complex and adds significance to the message. This is real life, not a make-believe plot that could only happen under perfect circumstances. Angel’s life is really as godless as it can get, until she meets Michael – so I was pleased to discover that she doesn’t undergo an “instant conversion.” Indeed, the whole book focuses on Angel’s enduring struggle to put her faith in any human, let alone God.
In summation, Redeeming Love just appealed to me on so many different levels. It’s a touching romance between two extremely unlikely partners; it’s historical fiction, depicting the vibrant world of the Old West; it’s a thought-provoking Christian text, dealing with how God can change anyone’s life at any time; it’s a suspenseful and fast-paced story of human relationships; and Rivers’ writing is lovely to read.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wouldn’t be offended by some relatively graphic sections. From what I understand, it’s quite popular in its genre, so it might be a good way to get your feet wet if you’re considering reading more Christian Lit. As for me, I’m definitely checking out more books by Francine Rivers, or in this genre in general. Redeeming Love far exceeded my expectations.