God-fearing and Growing Up
March 2017

Emma and David Copperfield in the nineteenth century. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye in the twentieth. Persepolis and The Goldfinch in the twenty-first. It’s not surprising to come across the perpetually popular coming-of-age plot quite frequently.

What has surprised me, however, is having found an unexpected number of wonderful coming-of-age novels that happen to take place in highly religious families. Here are some really good ones:

  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. Darkly funny coming-of-age story about an appealing teenager trapped in a loving but shattered family in a fundamentalist Mennonite community in Manitoba.
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An exquisite coming-of-age novel about a teenaged Nigerian girl with a fanatic Catholic father in a disintegrating family.
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Set in a black community in Oceanside, a coming-of-age and love-triangle story about a grief-stricken teenager. Narrated (sort of) by a group of old gossipy church ladies. Lyrical prose.
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. An intricate family chronicle of a missionary family in the Congo—where their faith in Jesus, democracy, and civilization is severely challenged.  Alternating chapters are narrated through different daughters’ points of view.

What are some of your favorite coming-of-age novels, not necessarily of the God-fearing variety?

Thank you for your book suggestions following last month’s posting on l-o-n-g novels. I totally agree about the following wonderful books that people sent in: Middlemarch, Bleak House, Vanity Fair, and Anna Karenina. Another suggestion was for My Name Is Red and other novels of Orhan Pamuk, an author I haven’t read yet.

And don’t forget: there’s a compilation of my all-time favorite books under “Find Books,” at the top of the column at right.