So far, much of what I've done is pontificate about the craft of writing or the journey of life, but the weekend seems to be a good time to take a step back from all that and talk about books I've recently read or re-read. Call it part reflection, part recommendation, part good-way-to-pass-the-time-before-Kansas-plays-in-the-Big-12-final-later-today. I'll try to keep it lucid and focused since I've got the Everton-Manchester City match on right now, as well (Everton just struck first in the 32nd minute to take a 1-nil lead).
As I've read a lot of books over the course of the past year, there's much to choose from, but I thought I'd begin with two novels that I both devoured and savored recently: Dancing Priest and A Light Shining, both by Glynn Young. Glynn spent a lot of time putting these stories together into a tale that began with a vision of a priest dancing on the beach. Dancing Priest introduces the reader to Michael Kent, university student, future priest, and Olympic cyclist for Great Britain. A young man of incredible faith, transparent honesty, and undying courage, Michael encounters Sarah Hughes, an exchange student from the US. The novel traces the interflow of their activity, through both love and loss, in settings that range from Edinburgh to Athens to Los Angeles to San Francisco. Michael discovers that he can have impact anywhere, whether that be in parish ministry or in the Olympic village. Sarah comes to recognize that neither life nor her artistic creations can make sense without the presence of the Creator at the center. The pace and tone change in A Light Shining. Michael's ministry flourishes, but at great cost, and both he and Sarah are caught in the crucible of international terrorism. Coordinated parries of evil are met with profound and memorable acts of heroism. The plot takes the reader on a bumpy, thrilling literary toboggan ride that ends with a royally surprising resolution, but leaves the reader wanting yet another sequel (Glynn, are you listening?). I would say more about both stories, but spoilers aren't in my blood at this point.
Yes, these are Glynn's first two novels, but he is already a master of pace and hooking the reader into the story. His characters, even the less central ones, are memorable and vivid. Michael Kent will impress you with his faith and honest heart, but Glynn infuses enough consternation and brokenness into Kent's character that he is a realistic. Even the events of the story, while profoundly memorable and hardly mundane, are not so far out there that you think "Oh, come on! No way that happens!" I can't remember any point when my suspension-of-disbelief alarm went off.
More than anything, for a novel that grapples with issues of faith, the story in both Dancing Priest and A Light Shining is refreshingly honest. A good deal of what passes for writing by Christian folks is "no swearing, no sex, and plenty of cheesy stitched-together scenes." Glynn is a very thoughtful believer, and he refuses to sacrifice quality in a story that grapples with questions of love, suffering, vocation, and wisdom. It is both a robust, realistic, and enjoyable world into which he beckons the reader. I'd suggest you grab both novels today and begin that journey. I guarantee you won't regret it.