Written by: Jazmine Cooper
Reading Christian novels can be hard, as they can be very corny. Some people don’t even pick up Christian novels because they are either too boring or too emotional. But I have found a Christian novel that is not corny, and the message leads to God’s love every time I read it. I am currently reading The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers. This is the second book by her that I have picked up; the other being Redeeming Love. In reading both of them, I have found there to be similarities as well as differences in her writing style, even though they are completely different stories. The Masterpiece is set in the present, and it is about a woman and man who both are in lives that they did not plan. Roman is an artist who hates his life. Grace comes to work for him, still reeling from her divorce and having her infant son. With a similar plot, Redeeming Love is about a prostitute who is saved by a man who claims God told him to marry her. Their settings are different, which makes the writing different, but they both tell their stories beautifully.
A strategy Rivers uses to tell the story of The Masterpiece is in-depth character development. She develops her characters slowly, giving each one a full background and dynamic. Her characters are like real people when you are done reading, because she spent the whole book giving a full look into who they are. It is not about what they look like; it is about what their lives look like. She does not describe what Grace or Roman look like until they meet each other, and they narrate to themselves how their appearance affects them. Everything about the characters is explained so well throughout the novel as a whole, that by the time you are done reading it is like you could see the person sitting next to you.
A way to make the novel suspenseful, as suspenseful as a Christian romance novel can be, is jumping from present to past, with each character as a narrator. Grace and Roman switch narration every other chapter so each can provide their perspective. Within each chapter, something happens that triggers the narrating character, which is where Rivers creates a jump backwards in the next chapter. It is there the reader gets a small chunk of exposition about the character and what their lives were like when they were younger, or when they experienced the terrible thing that led them to where they are. For Roman, it jumps to when he was a child and he lost his mother to drugs. For Grace, it is when she married a man right out of college and had to drop out because she was pregnant. Each jump gives a little more information about why the character behaves the way they do in the present. Grace is defensive because of her abusive relationship that she jumped into too fast. Roman is quiet and does not trust because the only person he ever trusted chose drugs over him. The jumps can be frustrating because they only give a little information at a time, and it leaves you hanging for the next piece of exposition. But it is a good kind of frustration, the kind that makes it impossible to put the book down.
A strategy solely in The Masterpiece is Rivers’s research. The character Roman is a gallery artist by day, and graffiti artist by night. Rivers wanted to be as accurate as possible when talking about the graffiti, and voicing Roman’s artistic side. So she reached out to a well-known graffiti artist turned Christian, who had a very similar life path to Roman’s. It was through him that Rivers was able to make sure the artistic side of Roman was accurate, like when he talks about paint and texture. This was an excellent way to bring authenticity to the character. When Roman is sitting in his studio, talking about how he is going to make a new painting, all the information is true and that is because of Rivers’s research.
Overall, Rivers does an excellent job of telling stories. Her focus on character development makes the characters like real people, and you truly know them by the end of the book. Her strategy to jump back and forth can be hard to accept at times, but in the end, it is totally worth it because the climax and resolution are everything the reader wants for the characters. One could argue that the suspense of knowing what is going to happen to the characters, in their past and their present, is what drives the story forward.
I love that I have found two Christian novels that not only have great literary devices, but also great messages. They both express the love of God, and how God can redeem even the worst. This is a message that everyone needs to hear, and every time I read these books I feel the Spirit leading me to God’s everlasting promise: He is going to love us to the very end of the age, and even after that.