Catholic beach reads: 16 page-turners for your summer vacation
Catholic authors don’t just write nonfiction. Whether you enjoy historical fiction, sci-fi, or suspense, there’s Catholic fiction for every taste. Bring one of these novels along on your summer travels.
Stephanie Landsem’s biblical fiction trilogy brings Gospel events to life. The Well centers on the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, but contains much more of Jesus’ story, along with subplots involving Roman soldiers, marriage customs, and the first Christian martyrs. In The Thief, a young girl steals to survive and support her blind brother. Her life collides with that of a Roman centurion, two veteran thieves, and Jesus Christ. The crucifixion scene is not for the faint of heart. The Tomb is an imaginative exploration of Martha of Bethany’s life.
Perfect for “Christmas in July,” Carolyn Astfalk’s Ornamental Graces recounts the on-again, off-again romance between Emily, a young teacher obsessed with all things French, and Dan, whose wounds from a past relationship make him wary of starting over. Will Dan be able to finally put his past behind him and open up to new love?
Full Cycle by Christopher Blunt is a story of perseverance, teamwork, and looking beyond a disability to draw upon talents yet untapped. This father-son story revolves around a bicycling event that requires riding more than 200 miles in a single day. Leave this book around for middle-school students and teens to find: it’s a story parents, grandparents, and kids can enjoy.
In Mara Faro’s The Grace Crasher, Julia obsesses over finding an affordable apartment right near her latest crush, a musician who makes her feel like the only person in his audience. But the only rental her budget can handle comes with strings attached: the landlady will only rent to a born-again Christian. What’s a lapsed Catholic girl to do? And how will she handle it when her landlady’s son discovers that she’s not the person she pretends to be? This is a charming and funny story of a journey to faith.
How do you determine the degree to which someone is a criminal–or a victim? That’s the question raised in Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch, in which a freshly-paroled inmate seeks to make her way in a world she never had the chance to navigate before her incarceration. This novel was inspired by true stories of pardons granted to women incarcerated for defending themselves against domestic abuse.
A ripped-from-the-headlines story line will hook readers of Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable. A young mother with a history of complicated pregnancies anticipates the birth of her child – but so does her neighbor, who harbors a deep grudge and plots to separate her, and her baby, from her happy family.
Dr. Barbara Golder’s “Lady Doc Murders” series is heavy on suspense with none of the blood and guts. The main character in Dying for Revenge is a pathologist haunted by her own grief and desire for revenge. There’s much more than a mystery in this thriller; it’s the story of a soul in torment. Dying for Compassion puts a human face on the euthanasia debate and how it plays out in cases involving children and adults.
Don’t You Forget About Me mixes up Italian food, ’80s music, medicine and murder. In Erin McCole Cupp’s mystery, Cate Whelihan returns to her hometown for a funeral and must face the people who bullied her as a teen – and discovers that many of them are afflicted by the same mysterious illness she endures.
In Discovery by Karina Fabian, three religious sisters are part of a classified mission to explore an alien ship that has crash landed on an asteroid three billion miles from Earth. Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill. The sisters must confront their own pasts in order to secure the safety of the mission and the very souls of the crew.
Amanda Lauer’s Civil War romances do not romanticize the difficulties of wartime and its aftermath. A World Such as Heaven Intended is set in a Georgia home-turned-hospital. Amara and her love interest, Nathan, share much in common — but the war comes between them in more ways than one. In the second novel in the series, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, Brigid discovers a Confederate soldier unconscious on her family’s property and takes great risks to hide and protect him until he can be brought to safety. These risks include opening her heart to the soldier, even though she intends to enter a convent soon. Brigid’s inadvertent involvement in the Underground Railroad sets the stage for the two to meet again.
Think you know about British history? Think again — Dena Hunt’s Treason, a “week in the life” of secret Catholics during the Elizabethan era, will open your eyes. The author has captured the spirit of the time through well-drawn characters and a compelling plot.
Don’t skip this one just because it’s labeled “Young Adult.” Set in 18th-century Milan, Playing by Heart by Carmela A. Martino is a symphony of romance and faith with an undercurrent of social commentary. Will Maria and Emilia’s father sacrifice their futures on the altar of his own ambitions to join the noble class? This novel explores family ties, vocations, and discernment of the best ways to use God-given gifts.
Seal of approval
Each novel on this list has received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval, which provides readers an assurance that the book meets high editorial standards and is in line with Catholic teaching, beliefs, and values. Learn more at https://catholicwritersguild.org/seal-approval.