Friday, May 27, 2016

Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner

Normally I hate Christian fiction. The writing is sloppy, the theology shallow, and the characters unlikeable. Earlier this year I subscribed to Spirit-Filled E-books (I know, quite a name!) and have downloaded a dozen free novels for light reading. But I have been universally disappointed. I realize that these titles may  have been free simply because they are awful. (Really good writers don't have to give away their books.)

Enter Jamie Langston Turner. From the first pages of Winter Birds, I reveled in well-crafted sentences and multi-dimensional characters. The title of each chapter is a line from Shakespeare, which is a clue that Ms. Turner might not be your average mediocre Christian author.   Allusions to scripture and literature are sprinkled throughout the text:

I have been young, but now I am old. That is the usual course, though I have often dreamed of how it would be to say I have been old and now I am young, to implant my old mind into my youthful body of fifty or sixty years ago.... In matters of money I have been poor, and now I am rich. (a reference to Psalm 37)

Eighty-year-old Aunt Sophie has come to spend her last days with her nephew Patrick and his wife Rachel. She barely knows them but promises to pay them well to care for her. Since she has experienced only disappointment and betrayal in her relationships, she assumes that Patrick and Rachel care only about her money. She mocks them in her heart for their Christian faith, but slowly learns to appreciate them.

Turner does a masterful job of describing the foolishness of Christianity to an onlooker. In truth, Patrick and Rachel could easily be caricatures, but as the reader becomes acquainted with their faults and griefs, they become more complex and less easy to pigeonhole. In fact, it is their "foolishness" that changes Sophie's attitude toward them over time.

The book addresses several depressing themes (aging, teen/parent struggles, death, bad marriages), which made it hard to keep reading at times. But as the wounded people in the story reach out to each other, they find healing. Fortunately, the ending is hopeful but not preachy.

Thank you, Sherry at Semicolon, for suggesting this way-above-average author.


Barbara H. said...

I enjoy her books and the depth to her characters.

Sherry said...

Oh, good. I was afraid when I read your intro to the North and South review about having just finished an insipid Christian novel that you were going to say you didn't enjoy Ms. Turner's book. I really like her writing, especially this one and another called A Garden to Keep. I'm glad you liked it.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I've been a fan of Turner for several years and have read most of her books now. In fact, I just read one this month! I agree with your evaluation of her writing.

Theresa said...

I loved this book! I need to read it again as it has been some time since I've read it. I was so happy to find a Christian author who is so gifted!