The INSPY Advisory Board is pleased to announced that the following books have been awarded the inaugural INSPYs in their categories. The INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, General & Literary Fiction
Crossing Oceans focuses on issues we must all face, such as life, death, relationships, and the choices we make when faced with our mortality. Through her protagonist, Genevieve “Jenny” Lucas, Holmes addresses these through Jenny’s final months of battling terminal cancer. Jenny makes difficult choices about her daughter’s future, and her own care and relationships. In the midst of this difficulty, Holmes places the message of faith very subtly throughout the narrative. She leaves her characters flawed and human, which makes them extremely relatable.
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, Creative Nonfiction
Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town chronicles the author’s move from complete acceptance of the faith of her childhood, through a desolate period of questioning, arriving at a renewed conviction about the love of God. Interweaving her own tale with the views of people she meets, Evans juxtaposes all of the voices about God in her life. Evans’ honesty in telling her faith journey impressed us along with how much her love of the Lord imbued the entire narrative.
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Historical Fiction
With carefully placed ephemera, a succinct sense of verisimilitude, in-depth characterization and a challenging historical context, She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell provides a moving look at the tarnished edge of America’s Gilded Age. While aligning with the subtle thematic thread that ties Mitchell’s previous historical novels together, She Walks in Beauty stands sufficiently on its own. She Walks in Beauty holds the widest appeal to readers of the CBA market and beyond. A steadfast faith is embedded into the plot seamlessly and not, instead, centered out as a forceful plot device. The novel’s inspirational resonance will reach Christian and non-Christian readers alike.
The Knight by Steven James, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction
How does one (who has no Christian reference points) make that first step toward the Lord? Where does that first question about spirituality come from? How does the author make it believable? Steven James makes it believable. This question encapsulates many of the judges’ thoughts about Patrick Bowers as he struggles to solve a series of grizzly crimes in the INSPY Award winner for the Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction category. The literary skill employed by James creates a story that steals the reader’s sleep while also stealing their breath. Creating an unforgettable set of characters who face an unimaginable and escalating series of terrifying crimes, James captures both the imagination and heart of the reader as he spins his tale.
Green by Ted Dekker, Speculative Fiction
Green was an excellent addition to the short list, with lots of emotion, lots of plot, and deep characters. The allegory is strong throughout, with the juxtaposition of past/present and far future showing the importance and far-reaching consequences of the characters lives. Dekker did a fantastic job with character development, plot development and faith. The brilliance of Green is the fact that it is both the beginning and the end of the series. While discussions of faith in literature are not new, Dekker created a different way to start/finish a series. Who else has done that with a series? He did something completely unexpected with the ending of his book, while tackling the Christian faith from a different angle.
Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman, Amish Fiction
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2. Plain Paradise is perfect for people who have never read Amish fiction before. The story line was interesting and it was easy to get involved with the characters. This book dealt with subject matter not normally found in Amish fiction, which made it a refreshing change. Wiseman explains the Amish culture without it being in your face, while being informative at the same time. This book shows that the Amish live their faith in God by example instead of simply ministering and witnessing to others. While the latter things are important, they remain separate from the English so their opportunities for ministering and witnessing to non-Amish are almost non-existent. This book is a reminder that our goal as Christians should be to minister and witness to the lost, but not everyone will take the time to listen to a sermon or a testimony. We should always be mindful that our light is shining, and that our lives are a living example of God’s grace and love.
Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, Romance/Romantic Suspense
INSPY Award winning novels are books that possess exceptional literary qualities and respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith. The Romance/Romantic Suspense category was filled with outstanding choices and those of us on the panel found it a very difficult category to judge. We debated right down to the wire, but we’re confident we made the right decision. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren is an epic story that spans a couple decades and takes place on several continents. The setting of this one swept us away. Warren took us from the Greek Isles to Prohibition-era Chicago, and back again, with enough description to make us feel like we’d lived in both places. She filled the book with rich detail, multi-layered characters, and plot twists we never saw coming. For these reasons, we feel Sons of Thunder deserves the 2010 INSPY Award for Romance/Romantic Suspense.
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Young Adult Fiction
Once Was Lost authentically portrays Sam, a pastor’s daughter, grappling with her faith in the midst of personal upheaval and uncertainty. The pressures to be perfect that Sam and her parents experience and the expectations of judgmental church members are depicted well, and this story demonstrates that pastors and their families are just like many others, struggling to deal with unexpected tragedy and unfathomable pain and, at times, questioning God’s presence in the midst of suffering. Sam’s sadness and confusion, as she misses her mom and wrestles with her own faith and what she believes, is palpable. Teens will relate to this excellent and very real book that goes beyond a surface-level exploration of what it means to follow God.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Going forward, please take note of books you want to nominate for next year; we’ll be starting the nominations process earlier in 2011.