Tag Archives: Christian fiction

‘The Diary of a (Trying to Be Holy) Mum by Fiona Lloyd

Cover art for Diary of a (Trying to Be Holy) Mum

Attrib Instant Apostle

You wanted to do something big for God since you became a Christian, but it’s difficult when you have three primary aged children.  Your life tends to be taken up with toddler group, Mum’s group at church, potties, creche, taking children to school and parties.  Becky is married to teacher Dave and has three children, Jennifer (aged nine and already anticipating teenager-dom), Adam (six) and Ellie (two).  When she tries to take a quiet time in the bathroom, she is interrupted after five minutes, because her six year old needs the loo.  She notes that this never happened when Jesus in the Bible when he went up a mountain to pray.

The story opens on Becky’s thirty-ninth birthday, feeling that she’s never going to have the opportunity to do anything significant.  For the first part of the book, which is written as a diary, there is an air of resignation in her entries, as household crisis follows household crisis.  She makes new year resolutions which fall flat.  Becky compares herself unfavourably with other members of her circle of friends, especially Helen, who is a perfect housewife and mother and a perfect Christian too.  When Becky looks after missionaries, Rupert and Liz, as a favour for the minister, she is impressed by their commitment to their project in Guatemala, and feels she herself could never do anything like that.  When she’s asked to stand at the front in church and talk about it, she nearly dies of fright.  As a reader, I’m starting to believe that Becky’s mission is to the world around her, to her family and friends, especially Annie with the non-sleeping baby, to whom Becky is extremely kind, but, suddenly, two-thirds into the story, we lurch forward.

The Diary of a (Trying to Be Holy) Mum concerns a largish group of ordinary people who attend one church, plus Becky’s unhelpful in-laws.  The same characters, well drawn and realistic, appear consistently, so we get to know them all well.  Fiona is, I know, drawing hugely from her own experience, of church and of motherhood.   Having been part of the toddler-group scene myself once, I know that there’s a whole soap opera going on there, but Fiona is the only writer I’m aware of who has written it.

The Diary of a (Trying to Be Holy) Mum is Fiona Lloyd’s first book.  I happen to know that its title was going to be ‘The Jesus on the Bus’.  If you want to know why, read it.  Instant Apostle is, of course, a Christian publishing group, and the Christian theme in this book is more overt than in any other Instant Apostle book I’ve read, but other people should be charmed by this honest attempt ‘to be a pilgrim’ (part-quote from John Donne).

The Diary of a (Trying to Be Holy) Mum is available from Instant Apostle.

‘Rooks at Dusk’ by Chick Yuill

Rooks in tree

Creative Commons (attrib Pixabay)

You’re an experienced Christian preacher, appearing on the conference circuit and on radio.  You ‘came to faith’ at the age of seven.  You’ve been  happily married for several decades and you and your wife are very sad that your one son, Ollie, a stand-up comic, has lost his faith. So, what do you do when your faith slips away from you and you cannot carry on churning out glib nuggets about things which once seemed rock solid but have have lost their freshness and meaning.  Moreover, you find yourself attracted to another woman and you have an affair.

You confess some of this to your son, hoping for a more sympathetic response from a member of the younger generation, but Ollie is disgusted and let down.  He calls you a hypocrite because you cannot maintain the standards which you upheld to him, and which he rejected.  You decide there is no alternative but to return home to your wife, and, painful as this will be, confess your unfaithfulness.  But that night she dies in a road accident.

Through his life Ray Young  (the main character) has been fascinated by rooks circling in flight at dusk, the beauty and grace of their movements offset by their raucous call.  This has become an allegory for Ray’s feelings about God, the church and his life.  ‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a Christian book, published by a Christian publisher, so the reader anticipates a certain course.  Without giving away any spoilers, the Christian reader has to suspend his/her expectations as to the story arc.   Richard Dawkins wouldn’t like it either, in case you’re wondering.

‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a work of one hundred per cent fiction, but this novel is written like an autobiographical account.  Large tranches of, quite important, action are glossed over, in dialogue or in a few paragraphs of backstory whilst covering something else, including a pilgrimage to Santiago in Northern Spain.  Indeed the plotline rambles in places, but this lends authenticity.  In my church there is a picture of Jesus bearing a crown of thorns with a caption ‘Meek and mild?  As if!’ and this is the tone of ‘Rooks at Dusk’.  Uncomfortable truths, awkward questions, subjects not usually treated openly in Christian literature, are taken on with courage, excruciating transparency and honesty.

Having read a little about Chick Yuill the man from his website Anvilding and his emotional resignation letter from officership in the Salvation Army, I learn that Chick himself is a preacher like his protagonist.   Chick”s faith in God and his marriage, however, remain firm.  He has preached at Spring Harvest and Radio Two’s Good Morning Sunday.   Included in ‘Rooks at Dusk’ is an insightful comparison between preaching and being a stand-up comic.  Compulsory reading for all clergy and lay preachers, methinks!

I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be reviewing this one yet, as it’s not released yet.  From 21 July (end of next week), you will be able to buy this book from Instant Apostle .  I am reviewing this book in my role as a member of  the Instant Apostle Facebook Reviewing Group.

‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a must for all committed Christians, for agnostics and atheists and everybody in between.  Five whopping stars!

Review of 'A Flight Delayed' by K C Lemmer

Herewith the review of this book, which i finished  a little while ago now.

One of the ‘Rose and Crown’ series, published by Sunpenny, concerns a young Scottish woman who is required to take her aunt’s ashes to South Africa – very much against her wishes. Not only does she not want to leave her fascinating research work in Scotland, but she didn’t like the aunt very much. What concerns her most of all, though, is that the trip will involve meeting her parents from whom she is estranged. Bought a flight with many connections by her cheap-skate sister, she finds herself stranded at Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, where she meets the amazing Jacobs family, who have problems of their own, particularly dark and edgy Caleb.

Sunpenny celebrates Christian fiction and works which are uplifting. Even though the ‘Rose and Crown’ is not specifically a Christian imprint, we see Amanda, the mc, wrestling with her faith in a way that is thoughtful and without sentimentality. There is no ‘Alleluia, I’ve seen Jesus’ moment. It is this incremental development of Amanda’s belief which constitutes the main plot, although there are many, many sub-plots and lots and lots of characters, some of whom (like the Jacobs grandparents) have a pivotal role for a chapter or two then disappear. From a literary point of view, there were aspects of the plot that were unsatisfactory – for instance, the parents’ reasons for absenting themselves from their son and daughters’ lives – but this sort of situation reflects real life, not what happens in books. “I’d rather get all this off my chest now, at the beginning of my visit, than pretend everything is okay until the last day of my stay,” says Amanda to her parents, towards the end of the book. Ho-hum. I think she’s talking about everybody’s family there!

This is a story which touches upon a lot of issues in modern society, anorexia, conservation, poverty and corruption in Zimbabwe, and the author has the honesty not to make any of her characters ‘resolve’ any of them. This writer, who clearly has wide experience of everyday life in southern Africa, has put it to good use by writing about it in painful detail.

So, do I recommend it? Yes, definitely. It was the characters of Amanda, Caleb and the others who kept me reading, and the hooks which led me to read more so as to find out what happens next.

Here are some more photos from Vietnam, not so good as the last lot, as I’m having problems transferring then from Android phone to Apple iPad.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Meal at The Green Tangarine, Ha Noi

Vegetarian meal at The Green Tangarine restaurant, Hanoi, Vietnam

Pink bus, in Ha Noi

Our tour bus in Ha Noi.