how edgy do you like your Christian fiction?

I stopped reading Stephen King after Misery. It was just too…scary, realistic, horrifying. There – let’s settle on horrifying. I read it in high school, and I remember running and diving into bed at night once the lights were out as if I’d be a goner if I were caught out of bed. Bed is a safe place, right? Nothing can get you once the covers are pulled up.

When I was a kid, I also slept with the covers up to my chin so vampires couldn’t get at my neck…I must have thought my sheets were made of garlic or something. LOL

swimming through clouds

I picked up the book Swimming Through Clouds recently because I heard so much about it from my friend, Gretchen Engel. She’s been promoting the sequel to the book, Seeing Through Stone, on her blogs. I’ve had my eye on this book ever since I heard the author read an excerpt from the book at a launch party for Playlist Fiction in Indianapolis last September. The author, Rajdeep Paulus, writes masala-marinated fiction (her term). I simply love learning about other cultures and reading through the eyes of an Indian character, especially a book well-loved by a friend, is a fantastic way to do it.

Gretchen described the book as gritty. For me, the first quarter of the book was horrifying, reminiscent to Stephen King’s Misery or the movie with Julia Roberts, Sleeping with the Enemy. The difference, while the events in Misery are a dim possibility, the events in Swimming Through the Clouds and Sleeping with the Enemy, do happen. Domestic violence is a fact of life for many and reading about the depths of pain one person can put another through is…horrifying. I read through the book thinking, when we get to the climax of the book, the “midnight of the soul” for the main character, am I going to be able to stand it? How much worse can this possibly get? It was like a reading train-wreck. Uncomfortable, but I couldn’t look away. 

But I loved this book. The writing was beautiful. The story poignant in sadness but infused with hope. Talia, the main character, and her brother Jess, grow on you and you want to reach in and scoop them out of the story and hug them to you like kittens left out in the cold. The book didn’t get to the point I couldn’t read it. The other shoe didn’t fall because, unlike Hollywood films and general fiction, this is a Christian story so there is God, and hope. 

But Talia and Jess’s stories go on. So that is why I have already purchased and am reading the sequel Seeing Through Stone. I want to know what happens next. :)

In answer to my question, how edgy do you like your Christian fiction? My answer is: the edgier the better. I want real, even if that means at times it is horrifying. Because it’s Christian, where God is involved there is always hope and redemption in one way or another. Those are the stories I like to read.

What about you?

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10 thoughts on “how edgy do you like your Christian fiction?

  1. You know I’m a big fan of realistic fiction (what I write, too!). I found it a bit surprising when people described my book as “gritty,” but then I realized that’s compared to CBA books. If it were ABA, “gritty” would be on a whole different level!

    Anyway, I recently read Paint Chips by Susie Finkbeiner (about human trafficking) and I will just say I LOVED IT. It was very realistic without being graphic, delving into those deeper issues. Another grittier Christian book I’m reading now is How Sweet the Sound by Amy Sorrells (modern-day Tamar story). These are the kinds of books I love.

    Honestly, I migrate to deeper, more realistic Christian fiction. I’ve seen Rajdeeps’ book but now I want to read it even more! Thanks for this take on things. And yes, some books I never finish or feel were a hopeless waste of time, like The Lovely Bones. It’s one thing to be realistic, it’s another thing to make it feel like the entire human race is pond scum. Grin.

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    • Swimming Through Stones is $2.99 on kindle. Totally worth it!

      I read the Lovely Bones. The first half of the book was phenomenal, but it was like she didn’t know how to end it. Her other book, based on her real life experience with rape, was a telling read. You got to the end and had to feel sorry for the author because she still hadn’t found peace. I pray that she finds it, because trying to fill the void inside with things of this world is destructive and will never work. :(

      Thanks for the comment!

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  2. It depends on what you mean by edgy. When I first saw the title of this post, I thought it was going to mean more along the lines of “how detailed do you like the romance”. But that’s because I just quit reading a book that made me ask that exact question of myself.

    I’m very wary with “edgy”. It has to be balanced with lots of good, positive things and even then there’s a fine line. I just never know what’s going to go too far and keep me up at night or give me nightmares. I think that’s part of why I tend to favor YA books – they can dance right on the edge but I haven’t read something that really crossed the line for me. At least, not yet…

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    • There is no graphic sex in Swimming Through Clouds. The domestic abuse is horrible, but not sexual. And there story does end with hope, but not bows and rainbows. Just the possibility of new life. I know you’re a sensitive reader. I actually thought of you when I wrote the post, Kat, and wondered whether this would be something you could read. It might push your limit. I’m not sure.

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  3. Considering I only called Swimming Through Clouds “gritty” and not “horrifying” :-)
    I like my Christian stories as edgy as they write them. For general market, I draw the line at horror. I don’t like scary, I don’t like gratuitous. Although sometimes I like a good tragedy. I’m not a huge fan of suspense Christian or not. But that has to to with me preferring character over plot. I’m more Seinfeld than cop drama.
    This is why Raj’s books appeal to me. They’re about likable characters in a horrible situation, but the entire story is full of hope so while it’s tense, it’s never bleak.

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    • Hmm. I’m very sensitive to bleak. I thought Swimming Through Clouds was rather bleak, but not depressing. And it’s not gratuitously bleak, it just tells it like it is. Realistic. Edgy. Gritty. At times, horrifying. ;)

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  4. I too loved Swimming Through Clouds but found the first 1/4 or so VERY difficult to read. I KNOW stuff like that really does happen–maybe that’s why i found it hard to take in. I write realistic contemporary YA and believe the more realistic, the more relevant, the more relevant, the more impact the story will have.Just ask my family how i feel about movies based on a true story–I’ll watch almost anything if it’s tagged as a true story! I’m anxious to continue Talia and Jess’s story in Seeing Through Stones.

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    • I’ve started it. It picks up with Jess’s POV and what happened immediately at the end of the story. Very gripping.

      And you’re right, the beginning of the book made me squirm. I’m glad it didn’t get worse. *whew*

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  5. my2ndnature Linda Samaritoni says:

    How edgy? It depends on my mood. If I want to escape the world for a little while, give me a syrup-sweet romance. Love wins. Happily ever after. But if I want to think, give me tough issues. How does the protagonist persevere? Teach me to persevere in a God-honoring way. That’s why we need both kinds of writers.

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