The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

A good example of what Christian fiction should be aiming for, this book dealt with religious (Christian) themes without forced resolution or unreal expectations.

Caro Mitchell considers herself practically an only child, even tells people that her sister is dead, since older sister Hannah left the family when Caro was only eight years old to become a member of an enclosed order of nuns. Caro has hardly seen Hannah since then, and she certainly doesn’t feel as if she has a real honest-to-goodness sibling. But now Hannah is leaving the convent and coming home, and Caro isn’t sure sure what to think about her family, her sister, her religion, or God.

Hannah is one of those “not very religious” people that seem to abound these days, maybe always have. I’ll admit that I don’t get it since I’ve always been fascinated by religion, both pagan and Christian, by the question of who God is and what He expects of me, by issues of sin and salvation and just theology. I don’t really understand someone who just doesn’t think much about such things. Nevertheless, I thought this book gave a good picture of a teenager who never really did think much about religion, and her own Catholic tradition in particular, until she was confronted with a sister for whom the issues of religion and God were all-consuming.

Caro and Hannah don’t really understand each other. There’s an age gap of about ten years between the two girls. There’s also an experience gap since Hannah left “the world” when she was about eighteen years old to become a nun, and Caro has been living with her parents as an only child for the past ten years. The girls also have different personalities: Hannah is fragile, indecisive, and uncertain. Caro is at first somewhat self-centered, unreliable, and focused on her own goals to the exclusion of others’ needs and wants. As the story progresses, Caro learns to care about Hannah and her parents and her friends, and she becomes a much more empathetic and mature young lady.

There’s a romance element to the novel: Caro has a boyfriend. That part, though it added dimensions to Caro’s personality, wasn’t the most interesting part of the book. It was Caro’s questions about God and about Christianity and her growing relationship with Hannah that made me keep reading to find out how and whether Caro would be able to grow outside herself and establish selfless relationships with God and others.

Recommended for those who like a YA contemporary novel with Christian discussions and themes that doesn’t preach or force the reader into predetermined conclusions.

3 thoughts on “The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

  1. Pingback: Bookish links for Saturday, February 16, 2013 | BOOKS AND MOVIES

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