Friday, January 25, 2008


As a public service to my non-Christian readers, I should warn you that Doesn't She Look Natural? by Angela Hunt is a Christian novel. If your library (like mine) placed the bar code over the God-related blurb on the back cover, you may have missed this.

I took a closer look at the publisher, the summary and the author bio when I'd hit about page 50 and noted the frequent mentions of God, prayer and Jesus making everything all right. I was willing to keep going for several reasons. I liked the book well enough by that point. I liked the concept of a woman inheriting a funeral home and doing her best Tim Gunn ("make it work!") in the face of overwhelming odds. The book had gotten good press, seemed to have some interesting characters and also seemed to be steering clear of the stuff I dislike about organized religion.

Until the middle of chapter 14. The main character, Jen, has intended to fix up this funeral home in Mt. Dora and sell it, but the home's elderly caretaker has convinced her to let him continue operating it while the work goes on. In this chapter, they've picked up their first "DB" as Grissom and Catherine would say (dead body to you non-CSI fans) and Jen gets the living shit scared out of her by the hairdresser. Unaware of her presence in the house, he goes up to the living quarters for a coffee. Now, Jen is justifiably frightened at finding a strange man in her kitchen. Yet, after the caretaker steps in, shoos the hairdresser back to his day job and settles everyone down, Jen's fear continues.

Why? What could be so horrible about this male hairdresser? Have you guessed it yet? She is afraid that Hairdresser Ryan might be one of those dreaded homosexuals -- and she has two easy converts in her impressionable young sons. And the caretaker gently explains to her that although Hairdresser Ryan would, in fact, love to get down and dirty with another man, he lives a pure and chaste life in a rooming house, alone, because that's clearly the way God wants it.

Yeah, seriously. If you don't believe me, check this book out yourself. I started to wonder about how the rest of the book would go. Jen's mother had been constantly chastising her about working too much and not spending enough time with her sons -- was she somehow going to give up working to be a stay-at-home single mom of some sort? Both she and her ex-husband had worked for Senators, and she'd railed about how unfair it was that she had to give up her job when they got divorced. But was that the "before" Jen? Was she going to see how much better it was in Mt. Dora, away from the sinful city and all its worldly distractions, where women are women and gay men are doomed to keep it in their pants for their entire lives?

I don't know. And maybe, by ripping out my bookmark, I'm being just as close-minded as those who believe Hairdresser Ryan made the proper life choice. But the book clearly wants you to sympathize with Jen, to root for her and to enjoy whatever transformation she'll undergo in the course of this book. And she's not so interesting that I could do that anyway, knowing how bigoted she is.

In a larger sense, I wonder why Christians need Christian fiction. They seem to be virtually the only religion that does that (at least in the United States). There are lots of novels about Judaism, but they're more cultural than religious. Why do no other religions try to convert people through fiction? I have some blogger friends who are atheists, and have seen frequent talk on their blogs about how there should be a more defined atheist movement in this country, to help offset the right-wing Christians who are running America into the ground. Maybe this is their golden opportunity: atheist fiction!


Anonymous said...

I picked this for a Book Club thinking it would be a fun, light, chic lit read. Then I realized, like you, that it was Christian Fiction. Ok, I'll keep reading, maybe its light-hearted Christian fiction. Then I got to the hate filled part you discuss in your blog post-if you look at it another way, the author is saying Gay and Lesbians who have relationships are possible child-molesters, since it is only ok to have chaste christian gays around our children. Disgusting. The book club has decided to continue reading it as it could create good discussion--I only hope I can keep my lunch down while I do.

chris said...

I don't think that the fiction is so much about converting folks to Christianity as it is about continuing to brainwash the current followers. Those of us who do not subscribe to those views would not pick up one of those books unless accidentally, so it really is about keeping the flock in the dark, IMHO.

As always, thank you for another enlightening review!