Oke: Christian Fiction

March 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Posted in awards, christian fiction | 7 Comments

oke-janette.jpgOke, J. (2000). Like Gold Refined. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House.

Canadian author Janette Oke is one of the most popular and internationally acclaimed writers in Christian fiction. In 1979, her first Christian novel, Loves Come Softly, was published by Bethany House. This title has sold over 1 million copies and Oke’s work is credited with pioneering the inspirational fiction market. She received the 1992 President’s Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, the 1999 CBA Life Impact Award and the Gold Medallion Award for fiction. Several of Oke’s novels have been translated into made-for-TV movies by Hallmark. For details about her books and movies, visit http://www.janetteoke.com

In the last 15 years, Oke has created more than 75 novels which feature pioneer or farming life on the prairie, cohesive families and stronglike-gold-refined.gif female protagonists. Her bibliography spans 6 series:

  • Song of Acadia with co-author T. Davis Bunn (5 titles, 1999-2002)
  • Prairie Legacy (4 titles, 1997-2000)
  • Women of the West (12 titles, 1990-1996)
  • Canadian West (6 titles, 1983-2001)
  • Seasons of the Heart (4 titles 1981-1989)
  • Love Comes Softly (8 titles, 1979-1989) 

The book Like Gold Refined, represents the fourth and final volume in Oke’s Prairie Legacy series.  It explores how Virginia and Jonathan Lewis, their four children and extended family struggle to cope with significant changes and to reconcile life’s challenges with their steadfast Christian faith. The book cover shows Virginia embracing “daughter” Mindy with their farm and the girl’s beloved colt Buttercup in the background. (The time frame is mid-20th century).  After 10 years, the Lewis’s parental rights are legally challenged when the absentee birth mother returns and asserts her rights.The family agonizes over other life decisions, such as moving frail grandparents from their homestead, and supporting nephew Slate who longs to leave to build a life of his own.  

The common theme in Jeanette Oke’s books is that love and devotion to God and family will provide the strength to overcome hardship. Through her stories, Oke demonstrates that God has a plan for everyone’s lives, although it’s often not the plan the individual has envisioned. As Jeanette Oke explains in her website   Faithful Reader , she views writing as “..an opportunity to share my faith.. . If my books touch lives, answer individual’s questions, or lifts readers to a higher plane, then I will feel that they have accomplished what God has asked me to do.” 

As a Christian but not a reader of Christian fiction, I found this work by Oke to be preachy, stylistically flat and unrealistic. The birth mother Jenny is the only non-believer in the book, and she is a painfully unsympathetic character. Jenny’s a sullen, swearing chain smoker who has a sleazy lawyer uproot Mindy to tend to her last months as she dies from lung cancer. The children are perfect little angels–they never complain, talk back or fight except over who gets to help do chores. The happy ending is that Jenny asks the forgiveness of God, friends and family on the eve of her death. Not my idea of fiction entertainment reading! 

While Oke’s reviewers laud her strong female characters, I regarded Virginia as a submissive even clueless protagonist.  When Jenny demands her child back, it is husband Jonathan who calmly takes control, without discussing his plan with Virginia. Similarly, it is the strong male figure, nephew Slate, who saves the Lewis family farm by contributing part of his inheritance. This is the first genre work I’ve read for this course which lacks an obvious sidekick. aside from trusty Slate. The world of the Lewises and grandparents Davises is a world of family, and neighbors, teachers and other community ties were not explicitly drawn into this world.

The strength of Oke’s work was in its depiction of how evangelicals practice and articulate their faith. It was enlightening to read descriptions about morning devotions, weekly scripture competition and evening prayers.

ECPA lists annual winners of the Gold Medallion (now Christian Book Award) from 1978  to 2006  at http://www.ecpa.org/goldmedallion/gm2005.php

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  1. Dear Janette Oke
    I think you are the best author of all time,
    your books have help me grow really really big in Christ.
    I hope that you can reply to this e-mail. Where do you live?
    You are still alive right? oh how I do hope so!
    hope to hear from you,
    Amy

  2. I just finished reading The Meeting Place by Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn and totally loved it. This book is part of the Song Of Acadia series of which there are four other books. Since The Meeting Place left readers in suspense, I am wondering if any of the other books in this series takes up where The Meeting Place left off?

    Karen

  3. DEAR JANETTE OKE,
    I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO APPRECIATE YOUR NOVELS. PERSONALLY, I FIND YOURS TO BE THE GREATEST WRITTEN CHRISTIAN-FICTION NOVELS OF ALL TIME. I LOVE THEM AND I HOPE TO READ ONE OF THEM SOMEDAY. TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY READ ONE OF THEM BEFORE, BUT I’VE WATCHED THE MOVIES ON HALLMARK CHANNEL FROM LOVES COMES SOFTLY TO LOVE’S UNFOLDING DREAM, AND TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I NEVER ONCE EVEN TOOK A BATHROOM BREAK. IT WAS AS IF I WAS GLUED TO THE TELEVISON. I’M A FIFTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL FROM JAMAICA AND PROBABLY YOU MAY BE THINKING THAT THIS SHOULDN’T AFFECT ME IN ANY WAY, WELL, IT DOESN’T NOW, BUT I KNOW THAT IN THE LONG RUN IT WILL BE EFFECTIVE. I’M A CHRISTIAN GIRL AND I’M STRIVING FOR CHRIST AND THESE MOVIES REALLY MADE A MARK IN MY LIFE. I JUST WROTE TO SAY THANK YOU FOR THAT, YOU HAVE REALLY MADE YOUR SPARK IN THIS WORLD, AND YOU CAN SHOW AUTHORS THAT NOVELS ABOUT LOVE DOESN’T HAVE TO HAVE ANYTHING ABOUT SEX IN IT FOR IT TO SHOW THAT IT REALLY IS ABOUT LOVE. I ALSO WISH TO BECOME AN AUTHOR AND A POET AND THESE SHOWED ME THE RIGHT WAY TO DO SO. AGAIN I SAY, THANK YOU FOR THAT.

  4. Hello there: Just to let you know that Toby Waldowski will be presenting the musical version of “Love Comes Softly” at our church, King of Kings Lutheran in Woodbury MN., USA, in May, 2008. having read the book, watched it on TV, etc. am looking forward to seeing this. I visited with Him and he mentioned that he had performed this in your home church. What an honor!! Would nt it be great if you could find time to visit us? Thanks for writing. Gracia Riedell, Oakdale MN. USA

  5. Mrs. Oke,

    I just wanted you to know how much your series, Song of Acadia, meant to me. The day I opened the first book, “The Meeting Place,” my first thoughts were those of shock. You see you were telling the story of my family, of me. Your series was telling the story of what happened to my ancestors, to my family, on those fateful days in 1755, the Great Deportation. Some parts were hard to read because of the tragedy which happened to so many people. A few years ago, my husband and two children went to Acadie and walked on the sacred land which had been taken from my family in 1755. We saw the dykes they built; we saw trees that were now in the sixth/seventh generation. I was so blessed to have been there. Thank you for bringing to books the story of one of the greatest tragedies to happen on the North American continent. Thank you for telling the story of my family, my story.

  6. Mrs. Oke,
    I find the Love Comes Softly series the best
    entertainment with a message. I would like to
    know if the remaining 2 books in this series will
    be made into movies. I certainly hope so.

    Thank you for letting God use your talents to
    reach folks.

    BeBe

  7. Dear Jeanette:
    I just finished reading the Love Comes Softly series for the 2nd time and thoroughly enjoyed them. I read them about 10 years ago and had totally forgotten the content of them. The second time was as good as the first. They really blessed me. I have bought a lot of your books through the years and have enjoyed them all. You are a wonderful author. I am giving you a verbal hug as your books have enriched my life very much! Keep writing!


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