Christian fiction is a tough genre to write in, but Francine Rivers generally does a good job of keeping it interesting without slathering the stories in smelly cheese. After reading Redeeming Love, I thought the woman could do no wrong. There wasn't a story she couldn't tell that wouldn't cut straight to my heart.
...But then I started reading Leota's Garden.
My mom had highly recommended the read and I dove in, headfirst. It started out pretty good, but about halfway through, the story was so filled with fluff that it chugged almost completely to a halt.
I set the paperback on my nightstand and didn't touch it for months.
I started reading Bridge to Haven by Rivers a few weeks later and really enjoyed it. Sure, it was fluffy too, but at least it wasn't over-the-top with inner dialogue and corny scenes. BTH was one I had no problem breezing right through, but Leota's Garden lay inches from where I slept just begging for me to finish it.
So, a few weeks ago, as I was cleaning my bedroom, I looked at the book and thought, hey, if I could push through Gone Girl until the end, I can make it through anything (seriously, that book was terrible).
I finally finished Leota's Garden and I generally liked how it ended. It wasn't an amazingly written piece, but the underlying lessons were good and I really liked Annie, the protagonist. She is who I wish I would have been as a young woman instead of the broken mess that I was. She's a character who I want to see more of because she models the way we should respect our elders, honor our parents, and humble ourselves before the Lord.
Will I continue reading my way through Francine Rivers? Yes. She is a great storyteller and even though some are hit-or-miss, the way she relates everyday people to God is amazing.
I typically give advice to people that if a book is bad, just stop reading it and grab a new one. Life is too short to waste on bad writing. But Francine had earned some major points with me from prior novels and, honestly, we need to support Christian creators and artists as much as we can. It's how we win those cultural mountains back (Lance Wallnau, 7 Mountains of Influence)
Big respect for FR. I hope she continues to create new novels because I will keep on reading them.
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