“Not My Will,” by Francena Arnold. Chicago: Moody Press, 1946.
Much current Christian fiction, though not bad reading, nevertheless is not particularly good literature. The plots are often trite, and the characters are not very well developed. (“Miss X moves out west to be a teacher to pioneer children. The rancher next door helps her during a tornado. Could he be the one for her?” Answer: Yes. No need to buy the book.) Many of these works do not inspire the reader who is looking both for Christian-based novels, and also for literature that will remain.
That is why I suggest reading “Not My Will,” by Francena Arnold. This novel, originally published in 1946 by Moody Press and still in print (an eBook for Kindle is also available on Amazon.com), ought to be read by any aspiring writer of Christian fiction, or any reader looking for quality work in the same genre. It is an excellent example of a book that is not only inspiring with its powerful Christian message, but also full of good writing.
The plot revolves around Eleanor, a strong-willed and brilliant young scientist who is making a name for herself at her university. Eleanor becomes involved with Chad, a pre-med student from a small farm family with a strong Christian heritage. They wish to be married, but due to the terms of the will of the aunt who reared her, Eleanor cannot marry until age 25. So they marry secretly. After a glorious time together, Chad is killed in an accident — and Eleanor finds herself pregnant. She is beside herself with grief and almost becomes unhinged, giving her child up for adoption because she is not thinking clearly, which further compounds her distraught mental state.
The story of how Eleanor finds herself at Chad’s family’s home, and the loving way they take her in, results in a great plot twist and example of God’s loving provision for His children. Eleanor is a character who represents the strong will in many of us. As we get to know her and the people around her so well, it seems they could come knock on the door for a cup of tea (or, in our southern locale, a glass of tea with lots of sugar and ice).
A good piece of literature includes several characteristics: a powerful theme, a pace that moves neither too slowly nor too quickly, good flow of words, sympathy toward at least one character, a moral tension that drives the plot, a showing rather than telling of the theme and a moving of the reader that makes him or her desire to re-read the book, resulting in the discovery of deeper layers of meaning missed the first time. “Not My Will” (as well as its sequel, “Light In My Window”) is a Christian-based novel that fills these criteria and is well worth the reader’s time.