As a life-long book lover, I’m always on the quest to find my next read. There’s a special kind of malaise that book worms experience when in that uncomfortable gap between finishing one book and picking up the next. It's a listless sort of casting about, a restlessness that can only be satisfied by finding the next book.
But how to find that next book?
Sure, you could just pick up the latest bestsellers at Barnes and Noble, or read whatever your local book club happens to be reading, or grab something that’s on display at the library–but the problem with that is you might not pick a “good” book. You run the risk of wasting your precious reading time on what can only be described as “twaddle”.
As one of my friends so succinctly put it, “Life’s too short to read bad books.”
I couldn’t agree more!
So, what’s a Catholic book-lover to do when faced with a book drought? Well, it never hurts to get a recommendation from a friend who shares your values and worldview. And while we probably don’t know each other personally, I’d love to tell you about a book that I recently finished that I think any fellow Catholic bookworm would enjoy: Seeking Tranquility by Catholic author Amy Schisler.
But first, a caveat: I tend to be scornful of Christian romance novels (just ask anyone who’s ever been in a book club with me). I usually find them to be sickeningly sweet and overly preachy with characters that are impossible to relate to and plots that are predictable and inane (yes, I’m a book-snob).
So when I had the opportunity to read Seeking Tranquility, a Christian Romance novel set on the island of Chincoteague, Virginia (yes, that Chincoteague for all you Misty fans out there!) I have to admit that I was skeptical as to whether or not I would enjoy it.
I would have passed on it altogether–except I was in a book drought at the time…and the author described the book as a “Christian romance mystery-thriller”, which piqued my interest. I love a good mystery, and I was intrigued to see how one book could have all those elements and thus defy an easy categorization.
Within just a few pages of reading Seeking Tranquility, I was hooked. The prose was beautiful, the characters were believable, likable, and relatable, the setting was fun, and the plot was interesting–but that isn’t what made me want to keep reading.
What really got me was the Catholic worldview woven into the very fabric of the book. A sort of je ne sais pas quoi, something hard to put your finger on but nevertheless there. I’d say that the Catholic worldview is one that celebrates goodness, truth, and beauty in all their forms. It isn’t heavy-handed or overly explicit–it’s just there in the everyday beauty of God’s creation, the goodness of simple pleasures like food and friendship, the daily activities that take on new sparkle and significance when lived in God’s presence.
Seeking Tranquility centers around Christy McLane and her child prodigy sister, Molly. The book opens after Christy has left college to care for Molly following a tragic accident that has left them orphans. They’ve recently moved to the island of Chincoteague, where Christy is working multiple jobs in order to provide for herself and her sister. She’s been thrust into a position of great responsibility at a very young age and worries constantly about how to best meet the needs of her very special sister.
Christy’s selfless love and daily sacrifice for Molly at an age where most young women are living a carefree college lifestyle is beautiful and endearing. Although Christy and Molly have been raised essentially without religion, there are characters in the book for whom Catholicism is just a part of who they are, and as such never seems forced or overdone. These characters interact in genuine, authentic ways that highlight the goodness of Christianity while never forcing their perspective.
The island is close-knit and full of a wonderful array of characters that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with. Not least of all, a shy aerospace scientist named Jared Stevenson (the romantic interest of the book), who Christy meets through a Summer program with NASA that Molly is participating in.
I used to think I hated romance novels, but what I realized while reading Seeking Tranquility is that I hate romance novels done badly. The romance in this book was pure, refreshing, and beautiful, completely believable and just the right level of sweet. At the same time it was heady and exhilarating–in short: it felt like falling in love–and I was delighted by it.
But just when I was floating along on the emotional highs of a budding romance, I found myself caught in the promised mystery-thriller of the novel. No spoilers, but it seems Jared has some dark secrets lurking in his past that threaten to destroy his present happiness—and wreak havoc in the lives of the other characters as well.
This is another point in the book where the difference between a Catholic and Protestant worldview is readily apparent. In most generic Christian fiction books I’ve read, nothing all that bad or dangerous ever happens to the main characters–so there is literally no dramatic tension.
The underpinning idea seems to be: “Don’t worry, you’re Christian, so the bad things you're afraid of will never happen to you” whereas the Catholic worldview is more along the lines of, “Bad things are quite likely going to happen to you. But you belong to Christ, so they’re nothing to be afraid of.”
And so Schisler doesn’t shy away from depicting real evil in this book. It’s scary and terrible and will make your heart pound while keeping you voraciously turning pages to find out what happens next. In essence: it’s a great thriller.
I won’t tell you what happens…but I will say that it is a deeply satisfying book that will at the same time leave you wanting more–which is actually a good thing because it’s the first book in a planned trilogy.
So, if you happen to find yourself in the no-man’s-land of being a reader without your next book lined up, I encourage you to check out Seeking Tranquility. And prepare to be immersed in the truth, goodness, and beauty of an authentically Catholic fiction.