A couple months ago I tried out my library’s Personalized Book Pick service. I had to answer some questions about books I like and don’t like, and the librarian responded with a list of books I might enjoy. Among them were Anne Tyler’s books. I’ve read several now (she has written quite a few) and I understand why they were chosen for me. The characters are so thoughtful, the families so natural and problematic, the plots based mostly on inner conflict. There are usually marriages involved, which means love complicated. I still have plenty of her books to read yet, but so far my favorite is Back When We Were Grownups.
Now, I’m not saying everything about Anne Tyler’s books is just right. In fact, I tend not to like her endings. But somehow the ending doesn’t matter so much. It’s everything else — the living that goes on — that draws me to her stories. An ending is like the death of the book. Sometimes it dies gracefully and other times not.
And Anne Tyler is not a Christian, at least during the time she wrote the books I read. Most of her characters avoid religion altogether; they are uncomfortable around it. In Noah’s Compass, the title actually comes from a conversation the grandfather had with the four-year-old son of his born-again daughter. It wasn’t a very comfortable conversation, and I am sorry to say it didn’t turn the grandfather in the right spiritual direction. I wished it had. I wish Anne Tyler did have more faith in God. As it is, her characters have feelings of hope, but they often seem to be struggling with what they are hopeful in.
Yet, I can’t just read books written by Christians. I wouldn’t be much of a reader then. God has blessed certain people with insight and the ability to share their insight, and from these people I can learn, even if their worldview isn’t centered on Christ. I suppose I get a little defensive about my choice of literature sometimes. I did grow up in a house where the bookshelves were lined with Christian romance novels. And I went through a phase of reading those. But I’ve been through a lot of other phases, too. This summer is the Anne Tyler phase, and I look forward to it:)