I really like Jamie Langston Turner’s writing.
“Suncatchers” is a character-driven novel and as far as “Christian fiction” goes, cannot be put in the ‘typical of Christian writing’ box. The author does a clever job of keeping the reader guessing even in the parts that may be a bit predictable. Turner creatively exposes within the story and lives of the characters, the all-too-common stereotyping of Christian fundamentalist beliefs.
I so enjoyed reading this book! Perry, an established author, moves out of his home at the request of his disenchanted wife and is fortunate that his sister offers him a place to stay while she is away. His closest neighbors happen to be ‘those fundamentalist Christians’, and his agent wants him to write an expose of modern churches and their overzealous members. The problem is, the more his neighbors invite him into their lives, the more he finds he can identify with.
I loved the way the author does Eldeen, Perry’s elderly neighbor:
“…she grabbed Perry’s arm. “Oh, here it is right here! Turn in here!” She took hold of the steering wheel and gave it a strong yank to the right. Perry’s heart lurched as the Toyota careened into the driveway of the bank, barely missing another car headed out. The other driver honked and shook his head. Eldeen waved. “That was Terrence Barnett, I think,” she said. “His daughter teaches school with Jewel. She’s the gym teacher and has the longest muscles I’ve ever seen on a woman. You should see her!”
Perry applied the brakes, and they jerked to a halt. Eldeen’s purse slid off her lap onto the floor. “We’ve come in backwards,” Perry said, looking at the three cars lined up facing them in the separate drive-in lanes.”
Turner, I think, has done a great job of using the main character, Perry Warren, his marital, family and personal problems, and his objectivity, to reveal how modern society often both views and pokes fun at Christianity, while at the same time using real-life events to weave the common thread of humanity within us all.
“Perry wrote them all down, a whole list of depressing human burdens. He wondered as he was writing down the one about Grady’s medical insurance being canceled whether it ever disturbed anybody in this church that this God they claimed to be so loving and so powerful allowed their lives to be so fraught with problems. He wondered how Jewel dealt with that, how she could reconcile the idea of a loving God with a God who had permitted her husband to die – perhaps even ordained it, if he understood the theology of these Christians.”
The novel is a cleverly tongue-in-cheek attempt at writing about what it means to be a Christian and the various ‘flavors’ that church members have. Perry is constantly trying to find answers to his questions in this book and seemingly making no headway:
“He read over what he had just written. The sermon had been so simple, and Perry couldn’t help marveling that he had been seated in the midst of over a hundred people who by all appearances truly believed life was this easy. Do this and this will happen. Push that domino and all the others will respond in swift, orderly succession. Be good and you’ll be happy. Love God – how did you do that anyway? – and He will enfold you in His embrace. Love others as yourself – now there was a hefty assignment, or was it?”
This is not a novel that moves along with fast-paced action, although there are difficult events in the book (a visit to the emergency room, for example). It is a ‘quiet’ novel, much of it written to examine Perry’s attempt at recording the lives of his neighbors, and the author is not afraid to ask questions that go unanswered (at least within the book itself). I enjoyed the quiet nature of the book and found myself wondering what conclusions Perry was going to make and whether he would make any changes in his personal life. A little lengthy near the end, I still highly recommend this one!