Soul Painter

411buDse+1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I like to think of myself as a pretty strong Christian, so why do I shy away from anything labeled that way? I love contemporary Christian music, but as soon as someone applies that term to a book, I kind of grimace. (If you feel the need to pray for me as a result of that admission, please do. I could use some prayer.) I guess it seems as though applying that term is like making an excuse for something to be lacking. The music may not be as good, but at least it’s Christian. That kind of thing. (If you write and/or love to read Christian fiction, please know I mean no offense by that statement. I’m just owning up to my own issues.)

But I recently had the chance to read an advanced copy of a new book by Cara Luecht called Soul Painter, which was released today. She and I share the same agent, so I guess I assumed this would be “Christian fiction,” and I’ve already mentioned the way I respond to that phrase. I started the book, knowing it was possible that I wouldn’t love it.

And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Because, one paragraph in, I was hooked by the gorgeous writing. I loved each and every character, and they all felt (and continue to feel) real to me. I finished it in one day, if that tells you anything. It’s lovely, beautifully written historical fiction that is, ever so slightly, about art. It’s about people who reach out because they’re touched by someone else’s troubles, and about how both of them are changed in the process. It’s compelling and intelligent and intriguing and believable — and just happens to have characters in it whose faith is a part of their lives. They’re not all churchy people, but they’re people who live out the love and compassion Christians should feel. There is mystery and romance and art and history and friendship. Changed lives, love prevailing. But not syrupy sweet, not sugar-coated. It’s real — well, it feels real and true.

And it is beautiful. You should order it RIGHT NOW.

If this is what Christian fiction (as a whole genre) is — or can be — then I take back my former judgments. Yeah, I know, we shouldn’t judge. I’m not trying to sound flip, but truly, this is why I need prayer.

This is simply good fiction, a story that I enjoyed letting myself sink into. It’s what I always look for in a novel. Likable people and a story that lets me escape for a while from my world into another.

I don’t know Cara personally, just through a handful of emails and Facebook interactions. You know how you can read what someone wrote and know if you’d like them? Well, yeah, I do — and you will too. I hope you’ll look for this and tell your friends. I feel like I found a treasure and I almost want to keep it to myself. But I won’t, because I want her to do well, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. (Seriously, order it today.)

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