Quality Catholic fiction for your summer-vacation reading
By Carolyn Astfalk
Summer reading conjures images of warm sun and a quiet beach. But a satisfying “beach read” doesn’t have to be vacuous; it can entertain and edify.
Reading fiction sharpens our minds, expands our knowledge, broadens our understanding of the world, and builds empathy. Here are some recommendations:
Theresa Linden’s first novel for adults provides a vicarious trip to the beach. Anyone But Him is a contemporary mystery/romance with a redemptive message and a skillfully interwoven pro-life theme. Caitlyn is married to bad boy Jarret but has no memory of it. A spontaneous trip to the coast is the best medicine for spurring both her brain and her heart to remember.
In Shadows of Hope, Georgiana Daniels uses dramatic irony to explore a love triangle involving a crisis pregnancy counselor, her husband, and the woman she’s counseling. Written from the point of view of each of the triangle characters, the result is realistic and moving women’s fiction.
Turning in Circles by Michelle Buckman exhibits the wonderfully languorous feel of a quintessential Southern novel. Narrative visits to the post office, the creek, and horse trails immerse the reader in a town that hasn’t quite caught up to the 21st century, dawdling in the waning days of summer. Be ready for surprising revelations, sorrow, and tragedy.
Travel back to the Civil War with Amanda Lauer’s A Life Such As Heaven Intended. When Brigid discovers an unconscious soldier, her plans go awry. With secrets galore, flip-flopping loyalties, and Brigid’s imminent profession of religious vows, the reader is taken on a rollicking ride from war to peace and from subjugation to freedom.
Visit a close-knit Italian family and their Louisiana strawberry farm in The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia Toney, which recently took the grand prize in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Young Sal is at the center of an Italian mob’s high-stakes scheme of running liquor through small towns after Sal’s family is coerced into abetting them.
The Grace Crasher by Mara Faro is a hilarious, poignant story that sets the broken love among families, friends, lovers, and fellow believers against the backdrop of God’s unfailing love. Spot-on humor targets both Catholics and Evangelical Christians alike. Fully-developed characters and the beauty of capital-T Truth make this novel shine.
The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan series by Erin McCole Cupp solidifies Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as a timeless classic. Jane is expertly re-imagined as among America’s least wanted: an unclaimed embryo. Whereas the first two installments, Unclaimed and Nameless, show how Jane is shaped by her circumstances and relationships, Vanished, the final book, shows the maturity and integrity which bring Jane a mixture of sorrow and joy.
Read by actor Colin Firth, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair earns the label classic as a dark meditation on love, lust, jealousy, hatred, and the existence and nature of God. Amidst Greene’s expert use of imagery and phrasing, the reader comes to realize that no one lies outside the realm of God’s mercy.
Carolyn Astfalk is a contemporary Catholic novelist, blogger, CatholicMom.com contributor, and mother of four Catholic-school students ranging from preschool to high school.
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