Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Despite all the secrets harbored by these stories’ characters, many of them dark and painful to the characters or to others, and despite their sins, shortcomings, or unfortunate circumstances, the narrator maintains an undaunted hope for each of them, even in cases, as with Duane Foxhoven or Holly Eidemiller, where neither he nor anyone else has been able to help the people overcome the secrets.

The hope the narrator holds is for each individual’s redemption, a hope provided by his—and their—belief in the redemptive power of Christ. In Schaap’s stories, his characters’ need for redemption is made plain by the sins some have committed and the secrets they continue to keep, but the narrator’s confidence in the possibility, or even likelihood, of their redemption is made just as plain by the narrator’s frequent codas in the stories, where he expresses his belief not only in these people’s ability to change their lives but also in the power of Christ to help them make those transformations.

As a pastor, the narrator sees all the members of the flock—the people of his church and of the town of Barneveld—not as his subjects but as individuals whose spiritual care he has been entrusted with. More important, he views them each worthy of hope and of having their stories told. Though aware he is breaking confidences, the narrator tells the stories with pastoral sensitivity, not gossipy sensationalism, as if now far enough away in time or distance to feel safe in exposing the confessions he presents.