Sarah McCarten

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A sort of book review meshed with a conversation about how I’m prepared to give Christian fiction a second chance.

So this post is a kind of mezze of things that I wanted to write about. The first being Cory Copeland’s recent book, These Were the Nights. The second being my relationship with Christian fiction. Finally, me being wrong about some stuff, namely Christian fiction. Actually, it’s less of a mezze and more of a quiche, I do hope you enjoy it, Christians love quiche.


‘I wish they’d just make their point!’ I was relaying my disdain towards preachers who used stories instead of a proper sermon. I was at a dinner party chatting with five friends about something or other when we got on to the subject of narrative in preaching. The conversation progressed onto story and how really, I’d much prefer to read a book that tells me what the author thinks, rather than trying to reveal his ideas through a story.

I don’t know why I was so frustrated. Perhaps it was because the handful of preachers or the few writers who I’d witnessed doing this didn’t particularly appeal to me. Or perhaps, more accurately, it was because the times I’d heard or read this stuff, by ‘this stuff’ I mean Christian fiction, I felt like I was being sold a particular brand of theology. A theology that I didn’t want and I definitely wasn’t interested in if it was being revealed to me this subversively.

I’d often felt that these preachers or authors were trying to coerce me into their way of theologising, without even being honest enough to tell me. Or worse, that they were simplifying or dumbing down their lofty theology so that a mind as simple as mine might be able to understand it.

I understood that Jesus taught in parables, and I understood that was the way their culture communicated, but that wasn’t something I wanted really.

I wasn’t so opposed to non-Christian fiction, but I wasn’t reading much of that either, save, of course, my annual obligatory reading of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Then something happened, this guy whose blog I read wrote a novel, and I was interested. From what I’d read of him it didn’t seem like he had a particular brand of theology that he wanted to sell me, it didn’t seem like he had a particular ideology or doctrine that he wanted me to adopt, and for the most part, I’d liked what I’d read. I bought the book! The author’s name is Cory Copeland, you can read his blog here.

When it arrived I wasn’t particularly impressed, especially by the size of the thing. How the hell was I to find time to read that? I had theology to be reading you know! (Incidentally the book took me a day to read, and it was a day that I was working.)

The next day when I picked it up again I was equally disappointed. It started with a scene with a guy taking drugs. I thought to myself ‘this is going to be one of those stories about how good God is and how bad drugs are, but God is more than powerful enough to over come those deadly substances.’ If I’m honest I was a bit sick in my mouth. Even though I understand that is the truth, life doesn’t always work out that way. As I continued to read I realised that Copeland was very aware of this too. I’m glad that I continued to read, because I had considered throwing the book out, or giving it to my mum, I think she likes those ‘God is stronger that drugs’ stories.

As I read I found that overall the story was well written, I enjoyed the way that the story flowed, and I appreciated Copeland’s attention to detail. I actually loved it!

I remember thinking halfway through, he’s going to have a major task pulling this story together for a happy ending. As I finished, I realised that he’d written a good, fitting ending, not a happy one, this seemed apt though.

There was a story a little over halfway through, it contained an incident between the main character, Gideon’s, girlfriend, and the pastor of their church. I’d wished Copeland had made a little more of her story. Clearly, she did not want to be doing what she was doing, she was clearly being pressured into her actions by her superior, him being both her pastor and her boss at work. Actually, in leaving the story where he did, Copeland helped the reader experience what Gideon was going through, from his position he was unable to rationalise what was going on with his girlfriend, and by moving on where he did Copeland helped us really understand what Gideon was feeling.

Although the main character Gideon is quite dissimilar to me, I found myself resonating and identifying with his responses and attitudes. It felt a bit funny actually, because I don’t feel like my actions are very similar to his but the way he thought, and responded had a massive effect on me.

Copeland’s attention to detail made me think that he was concerned more with story than with getting his point across that any point he wanted me to learn, I understand that he was making a point, but I don’t feel like that was done at the expense of the story.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying that I’d like to read Christian fiction again. I’m saying that Copeland had done a good job. I’m saying that I was wrong, probably!

So Copeland, when’s the sequel going to be released? (Joke, that was supposed to be ironic)

If you’d like to you can buy Copeland’s book here, I should if I were you, it was worth the wait!

Thanks ever so much for reading! Have a lovely day!