Novel Thoughts blog

Fiction for Lent

February 20, 2015 11:02 pm | 6 Comments

Dayspring: A Novel coverAbout ten or so years ago I decided to read through all of the short stories of Flannery O’Connor during Lent. In her exploration of many of the darker aspects of humanity, I found a great deal to meditate upon. It made for one of the most fruitful Lenten seasons I’ve ever had.

In that spirit, here are a few Ignatius Press novels that would make for great reading during Lent.

Poor Banished Children by Fiorella de Maria is a story of a woman wounded by abuse, scorn, being ostracized and mistreated both by the Christians she grew up among but also by the Muslim pirates who enslaved her. How she eventually finds redemption and forgiveness makes for a very moving story.

Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien has been hailed by many as one of the acclaimed novelist’s very best works. In 2007, Marvin Olasky at WORLD magazine called it “one of the best Christian novels about forgiveness and grace I’ve ever read.”

Dayspring by Harry Sylvester is a novel that I had heard nothing about before we republished, but I’d call it a lost classic. It deserves to be shelved next to the best work of Graham Greene. The story of a sophisticated academic simultaneously attracted and repelled by the extreme mortifications of the Penitentes, a quasi-medieval brotherhood of men atoning for sin in the American Southwest, it’s a book that haunts the reader long after the pages are closed.

Iota by T.M. Doran is also a novel featuring a protagonist wrestling with guilt in punishing circumstances. Jan Skala was forced into collaborating with the Nazi occupation, and has now been imprisoned by the Communist “liberators” of his country. What will his fate be?

Everywhere in Chains by James Casper tells the story of a family suppressing the truth about a bygone crime, and how the tendency to hide things like abuse, mental illness, and injustice can explode outwards in violence. Can there truly be forgiveness when unwarranted secrecy is insisted upon?

Do you have a favorite Lenten read? Let me know in the comments!


John Herreid

John Herreid

John Herreid is catalog manager at Ignatius Press. In addition to catalogs and ads, he has also worked on the cover design for many Ignatius Press books and DVDs. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and four children.

Tags: lent reading lists


  1. February 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I’ve recently read both _Dayspring_ and _Poor Banished Children_, and can echo that they are both well worth the read. Both are challenging in their examinations of Christianity/Catholicism; not just simplistic Christian lit, but thoughtful explorations of what it means to “live the Eucharist” as mere mortals. Good stuff. Thanks for the additional recommendations; I’m ordering two of those right away!

  2. February 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. Reminiscences at a funeral for an alcoholic Irish-American man reveal the extent to which we construct our own reality by the stories, true or false, that we tell ourselves and each other. How do we maintain faith in the face of disappointment? And how deeply do we forgive and experience forgiveness? Chosen as the “Read UP” slection for the entire University of Portland campus to read and discuss.

  3. February 21, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Island of the World is probably the best novel I have ever read. Similar to a modern Brothers Dostoevsky.

  4. February 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I recommend The Hobbit–it’s delightful, instructive, inspiring and perfect for a Lenten journey. The characters have all the virtues, vices and sins that we deal with in the real world. In a fantasy world, the reader encounters persistence, fear, doing the impossible, loving your neighbor, mercy, forgiveness and repentance. I was reminded many times of passages in the Gospel as I read it. It contains a powerful message of faith, hope and love. It is a very Catholic work.

  5. February 23, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    How to get this in Macao? Please~

  6. John Herreid

    February 24, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Joey Tam: you can find our list of distributors outside the US here:

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