Relevant Fiction Reviews: Conquering Fear and Worry

Relevant Fiction Reviews

In my totally unqualified opinion,  worry and anxiety are epidemics in modern culture. Fear, worry, anxiety –  they all separate us from God’s love. “Be not afraid,” the first words of Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate, appear frequently in the Gospels. (I’ve found references to those words or a variation appearing from 120 times in the Gospels to 365 times throughout the Bible.) And yet, our lack of faith and our pride prevent us from  taking those words to heart. From letting go and letting God.

Within the space of a few days last month, I read two stellar books that address exactly these issues: one a contemporary romance and the other biblical fiction.

My Goodreads reviews of both books (below) give a big picture view of the enjoyment each of these books brought me but skimmed over how they each address pervasive worry by trusting in God and having fortitude – one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (CCC, 1808)

In A Season to Love, I briefly wondered if Nicole Deese had a window into my experience with anxiety and panic. Willa, whose painful past has left her fear- and anxiety-ridden, self-medicates with a steady dose of Starlight mints. While my intermittent struggles with anxiety are quite different, my remedy was the nearly the same. Tic-Tacs have been my drug of choice (though any mint would do in a pinch, including those red-and-white round mints Willa must buy in bulk).

The book is chock-full of wisdom about finding peace, hope, courage, and joy. I wanted to encapsulate it here with a few beautiful quotes from the narrative, but I can’t. You just need to read the book in its entirety.

In The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem, Martha’s worries aren’t the panic-inducing type, but more the preoccupation  created by responsibility to do and be what is expected of her. As we know from the Gospel account, it’s Martha’s sister Mary whom Jesus says has chosen the better part while Martha scrambles to see to everyone’s needs, worried about this and that. The Tomb explores this worry , even comparing and contrasting it with Pharisaical rule-following.

Worry entraps, preventing a person from encountering God, as demonstrated in both of these beautiful stories. It prevents us from experiencing God’s greatest gift to us – life. It prevents us from loving as we should and becoming who we are meant to be. Our desire to manage and control, to BE God, is another manifestation of our pride.

Worth noting are two other books that address these same issues. I read both Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade and Just Between You & Me by Jenny B. Jones in the fall of 2013. My less-than-stellar memory prevents me from giving a more detailed account without a re-read, but these well-written books also address giving up the worries and anxieties we bitterly cling to and letting God take control. I recommend them both!


A Season to LoveA Season to Love by Nicole Deese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the technical (but important) writing craft stuff aside, there’s an intangible character about certain books that make them memorable. A Season to Love’s got it.

This quick, easy read had me propping up my Kindle so I could read while I handled laundry and cooked dinner. At its climax, empathy for Willa left me with a bittersweet ache in my chest. I also found my non-sentimental self doing things I don’t ordinarily do – highlighting passages, rooting for characters, and pushing back tears.

Willa and Patrick’s relationship never feels rushed or forced, developing naturally out of their friendship. The sibling relationship between Willa and Weston is just as authentic and moving.

Nicole Deese shares not only a sweet and tender love story, but beautiful lessons about fear, anxiety, courage, and control that merits reading and re-reading. I can’t wait to revisit Lenox!

(I received an advance copy for my honest review.)


 

The Tomb: A Novel of Martha (The Living Water, #3)The Tomb: A Novel of Martha by Stephanie Landsem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This beautifully-written, imaginative novel drew me into the biblical story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the first pages. Because the story is so familiar to me, I’d lost the wonder of how sensational – how MIRACULOUS – this story is.

The descriptions and well-drawn characters kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the morning. It contains beautiful depictions of filial love, romantic love, and mercy. (Perfect reading for the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has declared.)

I’ll be recommending this book to my friends!

(The author is a fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild.)


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