Five Great Novels for Lent

The human soul is moved by the beautiful. In fiction lies the unique opportunity to experience life outside of ourselves. Novels help us explore the gray areas of life and develop within us our deep and uniquely human capacity for empathy. Whatever your prayer practices or Lenten sacrifice may be, the themes in these novels will complement the spirit of the Lenten season!

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a work of historical fiction set during the California gold rush.  It’s also based on the biblical book of Hosea, a prophet whom God called to marry a prostitute as a metaphor for Israel’s own unfaithfulness.  Rivers’s retelling will have readers reflecting on beauty of God’s enduring love and its power to draw us near. 

John Steinbeck’s epic masterpiece East of Eden is a tale of two brothers, love, jealousy, and the power to choose good over evil.  Filled with memorable characters and rife with theological themes, this is one readers will ponder for a long time.  

The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’s answer to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  It follows the narrator as he journeys through Lewis’s characterization of the afterlife.  The different characters the narrator encounters serve to illustrate for readers the lasting effects of the choices we make during our lives here on earth. 

Set in 17th century Japan, Shusako Endo’s Silence is a fictional tale about Jesuit missionaries to Japan during a period of intense Christian persecution.  It is a gut-wrenching and challenging thought experiment that will have readers asking themselves what it truly means to follow Christ. 

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is the ultimate Lenten classic.  This is the book to read if you want just one book for Lent – not just this Lent, but every Lent. For the rest of your life. Written as a series of letters offering advice from a senior demon to his protege on how to effectively tempt a newly converted Christian, the novel serves as an examination of conscience.  The genius of Lewis’s insight into our flawed human nature will have readers shudder as they recognize themselves on every page. 

Have suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment with your best Lenten fiction suggestions below.

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