No Dark Valley

I am unenthusiastic about contemporary Christian fiction.

I’m not sure how this title ended up on my shelf, but I  gave it a go.  No Dark Valley is a phrase from a hymn (There’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes to gather his loved ones home).  As a resolute lover of robust hymns, I found the best part of No Dark Valley to be Turner’s employing hymn phrases into chapter titles and into her prose, e.g. Ten Thousand Charms; Where Bright Angel Feet Have Trod;  Some Melodious Sonnet; Frail Children of Dust; And Grace Will Lead Me Home.  I’m often snipping little phrases from hymns for a bouquet of words.  This, alone, made the book worth reading.

There was a laugh out loud moment: … Grandmother’s pastor, who seemed to be trying to depict the concept of eternality by the length of his prayer

The protagonist, Celia, is a director of an art gallery.  The last five books I’ve read have referenced pieces of art, a delightful rabbit trail. No Dark Valley paired paintings and poems inspired by the paintings, a worthy exploration.  Here is Delmore Schwartz’s poem Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon Along the Seine; Cathy Song’s poem Girl Powdering Her Neck based on a Kitagawa Utamaro print; a Charles DeMuth, William Carlos William pairing.

I liked the hymn phrases and fine art references.  When she isn’t highlighting fine art, Turner pokes some fun at kitsch: Their idea of good art was sticking a calendar picture or an old greeting card inside a frame from Kmart.  And later: Her idea of good art was the newest Precious Moments figurine.

But the writing did not win me.  The reader is told in almost every chapter about Celia’s angst and remorse; the subtlety of showing Celia’s feelings by her facial expressions, position of her hands, physical responses would have been better. That, along with a predictable storyline and wooden characterization, haven’t changed my opinion of contemporary Christian fiction.


10 thoughts on “No Dark Valley

  1. Oh, Carol, you are becoming more and more of a writer each day, aren’t you? The writer’s cardinal rule, “Show, don’t tell,” is something you are embracing more and more and I’m so proud of you! But don’t you wonder why it is that Christian fiction can’t be better than it is, on the whole? Makes me rather sad.

  2. I tend to steer clear of Christian fiction too. I haven’t read any Turner. I’m not always sure what counts as Christian fiction, though. For instance, there are novels written from a Christian perspective that aren’t necessarily on the shelf at the Christian bookstore that I love — Leif Enger’s books, Marilynne Robinson, various classics.

  3. So, I’m not gonna add it to my TBR list;  I’ll just follow your links and enjoy the painting/poem combo.DD#3 is enjoying Dee Henderson right now.  I think she’s on her 3rd or 4th.

  4. @LimboLady –  Yeah, I have a few books about writing on my shelf.   The author is a writing instructor.  I think that a lot of books are written too fast and follow a formula.  And many people love it and eat it up, so there must be a market for it.  Sigh…

  5. *deep sigh* Christian fiction has a long way to go before it earns my respect, I say this as one who is trying to get published, but who is rather embarrassed when asked what Christian authors to compare my books to, because I read so little Christian fiction. I just can’t stomach it. I know there are some gems out there, but I don’t know where they’re lurking.

  6. I agree with your first line; treading on thin ice… a Mills & Boon book is exactly what it is… for that matter Zane Grey too. Q: are we reading the books for the icing or for the cake?   

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