Have you read Vinita?
June 23, 2009 | My Jottings
Last summer my friend Carole Seid, who has exquisite and discerning taste in books, recommended a few titles to me. She knows books (and sells books) and travels around the country showing people how they can effectively home school their children with a good math program and a library card, and she always clues me in on the most wonderful reads. One of the books Carole told me about last year led to my finding another new author I dearly love. I’ll tell you about that in a minute or six.
Carole told me to read Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner, and it was a marvelous book about a brilliant young woman who grew up a nominal Reformed Jew, then converted to stringent Orthodox Judaism, then years later became a Christian, because she grew convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be: God. Because Lauren Winner’s books are so outstanding, I took note when she recommended an author in an online interview she gave.
I love to read, and I am a Christian, but I’ve never been a devoted fan of Christian fiction. I know this genre is popular and a blessing to many people, but I’ve always been a bit bemused at how so many of the stories end with a perfectly tied bow and everyone lives happily ever after, which is not how it is in real life. The themes always seem the same: people have big trouble, then the people say the sinner’s prayer, then everything falls into place and the people are groovy for the rest of their lives. I don’t know about you, but this is not how things have unfolded in my life. And to be fair, I know that sometimes we do have big trouble, and we do cry out to Jesus and He does intervene in miraculous ways and things do improve and we get set straight. How awe-struck and thankful I am for those times! But then the next wave of “learning opportunities” comes crashing, and we see again what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. We spend our Christian lives (hopefully) holding on to His hand in the dark, rejoicing and praising Him when light dawns but knowing that nightfall will most certainly come again and we’ll be desperately groping for His hand again. But that could be another blog post. Back to Lauren Winner.
Ms. Winner was asked in an interview about her opinion on the state of Christian fiction, and she replied (surprisingly to me), “I think it’s improving, especially with writers out there like Vinita Hampton Wright.”
I had never heard of Vinita Hampton Wright, but I was pleased to find that our local library had most of her books, and I checked them out. All the old adages apply here – I could not put Wright’s books down, I did not want them to end, I was transported by her elegant writing directly into the lives of her characters, and more. I think I recommended Wright’s Grace at Bender Springs and Velma Still Cooks in Leeway to every single reading friend I have. These are books that are seamlessly and brilliantly written, never trite, full of real problems (some terribly serious) and flawed people who are all in various stages of unbelief, of slow, meandering conversion and fruitful, mature faith. Vinita Hampton Wright creates characters you care about, some who evoke visceral reactions as their struggles are revealed on the pages. You won’t find a deeply troubled person in these books who just says a prayer to ask Jesus into their hearts and then finds smooth sailing from that day forward. Wright instead writes books that look more like our own lives. She writes about believers who struggle with sin and depression, people who have messed up children and who are weary of monotonous and sometimes precarious living. She writes more about the day-to-day glimmers of God’s glory that slowly transform our ordinary lives, rather than the magnificent, blinding epiphanies Christians are often led to believe they need and will receive if they would only pray.
Ms. Wright’s newest book is non-fiction and I’m starting on my second reading of it. It’s called Days of Deepening Friendship – For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God. I devoured it the first time (on my Kindle) and now will begin to slowly re-read and savor the paperback copy I have, doing the assignments as my own mini-retreat and journey toward deeper friendship with God.
Tomorrow I will share one of the many quotes by Vinita Hampton Wright that recently struck my heart. She wrote something so candid and poignant it made me cry and yearn.
Have you read Vinita? If not, I hope you will.