Truth Through Fiction
Updated: Oct 24
“Truth has a way of working itself into any story, whether the writer means it to or not.” - Author Erin Bartels, The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water
Do you remember the last time you found an author that you truly loved? I don't mean one who writes well and tells a good story. I mean a writer that, once you read one of their books, you have to read every other book they've published. Erin Bartels is that author for me. Her books are the best kind of Christian fiction—they have the potential to reach every reader, Christian or not.
Erin Bartel's books are the best kind of Christian fiction—they have the potential to reach every reader, Christian or not.
Erin's books deal with themes of brokenness, shame, forgiveness, recovery, and hope. All themes that are near and dear to my own heart. Her writing is lyrical, profound, intriguing, and insightful. I am always captivated by her first paragraph.
In my latest (finished) read (so far my favorite), The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, she captures the labor, struggle, self-doubt, required self-discipline, and ultimate joy inherent in the process of novel writing. This book also deals with the hard topic of sexual abuse compassionately and honestly, both for the victim and the abuser. As I read this book, I thought, Wow, she really understands this kind of trauma. I learned why after finishing the book and reading the author's notes.
In The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, one of her characters, who is also a writer (as is the protagonist), says, "Writing is about making sense of the human condition ... It’s about communicating truth, which is useful and helpful to people on a far more elemental level than a lot of stuff we think of as necessary to life."
The power of fiction is that through story we can speak the truth in ways that people would otherwise tune us out. We can instill compassion in a judgmental soul who has opened his/her heart to a character's pain.
As I writer, I recognize Erin's love of words (The Words Between Us) and her many creative literary devices. Her characters jump off the page with voices as real as they are diverse. She nails it all, whether contemporary fiction (All That We Carried) or historical triple-timeline fiction (We Hope For Better Things). I just started reading Everything Is Just Beginning, written in the voice (at least so far) of a twenty-something male wanna-be rock musician and songwriter (set in the 80s). I eagerly await the Spring 2024 release of The Lady With the Dark Hair, which explores the art world using a dual timeline.
I love that Erin's e-books are available through my library's Libby app. This makes it easy for me to "gorge" on a favorite author's books without cost. (Don't worry the authors and publishers still make money on this--no one is getting cheated.) If you haven't discovered how much libraries have evolved these days (especially if you like reading digital books or listening to audiobooks, you may want to pay them a visit, get a library card, and start feasting for free! And if you enjoyed my book, Tangled Violets, feel free to request that your local library carry it in digital format. You can rate and review books through your local library's website interface and rate them on Libby, too.
Denise-Marie Martin is the author of Tangled Violets: A Novel of Redemption.