As I may have mentioned before on this blog, I am a Christian fiction snob. As a reader, I’m not interested in contemporary Christian romance fiction, historical Christian romance fiction, Amish fiction, Amish romance fiction, or Christian westerns. I just can’t relate.
Tar and feather me if you must.
So what do I like? So glad you asked!
I want to read about characters and situations which feel real. If I can smell the plot points coming from a mile away, I’m not interested. If God answers every characters prayer and everyone comes to Jesus by the final chapter, I cry foul. If the characters voice changes and suddenly they sound like N. T. Wright or Dallas Willard or the author was hitting me over the head with their “message”, I’m done.
I am no different from any other avid reader who wants the book they’re reading to entertain, to carry them away to another place, and allow them to escape from their own life for a moment. However, no matter the setting or the plot, the story must feel real to me. It has to be plausible on some level.
Which is why I absolutely love reading Neta Jackson. If you’re familiar with Christian fiction at all, no doubt you have heard of the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Published in 2008, Jackson wrote a great series about women in Chicago from all walks of life; married mothers, college students, single professionals, ex cons and drug addicts. Each book focused on a different character introduced in the initial book. The situations the characters dealt with are realistic and of course, being Christian fiction, Jackson also writes about faith.
I lost track of Jackson’s work for quite a while and have been catching up with her House of Hope series as well as the Souled Out Sisters series. Jackson’s husband, Dave, has written a Yada Yada Brothers series and together the couple has written the Windy City Neighbors series which brings me to today’s review of Penny Wise, the third novel in the Windy City Neighbors series.
I haven’t read Jackson in a while but it didn’t take much time into Penny Wise before I realized how much I missed this author. This book focuses on the Jasper family, a family of five in an urban Chicago neighborhood. Michelle is a social worker, her husband is an air traffic controller. The Jasper family deals with many modern stresses such as financial pressures, full work loads, busy family life, demanding church responsibilities, parenting teens, and trying to meet the needs of others. When Michelle finds herself in an unexpected situation, she painfully struggles with a decision she never would have considered before and wonders where God is in the midst of it all.
What I love so much about Jackson’s books is character diversity and writing about real life. Her characters:
- argue with their husbands
- get annoyed with people
- deal with exasperating children
- enjoy a healthy sex life (within the bounds of marriage and nothing explicit is said)
- fight to keep their faith vibrant, although they forget to pray (just like me!)
- have financial woes
Although I am picky and could see one plot point developing from very early on in the story, I highly recommend Penny Wise as well as Jackson’s other books. Life is messy and hard. Jackson reflects this in her work and writes about real people and a real God.
I received a complimentary copy of Penny Wise in exchange for a book review. I was not required to write a positive review.