A couple of weeks ago, a friend handed me a book and said I needed to read it. She said she just loved it, and if nothing else, I should read it just for the writing technique. I fully expected to read something that I couldn't put down. Sigh.
It didn't happen.
A week or so before she gave me that book, I picked up one published by Love Inspired. What is interesting about these two books, is that they both had the Amish as their subject matter. One -- the volume my friend gave me -- was a murder mystery in Amish country and how the culture deals with such things. The other -- the romance -- was how a young woman finds her roots in going to a community to be a Midwife.
On first glance one would have thought the romance book to be a sappy, little thought story that doesn't take any energy to read. To my surprise, I found it to be wonderful, and recommended it to my daughters. We have all taken to reading the Love Inspired books because they are clean -- no one is sleeping around and very little (if any) language. The majority of them are probably fluff -- but there are a few that are really well written.
Both books have a great deal of research and information on the Amish as a general community, though in slightly different ways. I'm sure there are different groups that practice things just slightly off from another -- but it was interesting to see the differences and learn more about the group of people who are a wonderful example of following your principles.
I feel bad about the book my friend suggested. I stuck with it and finished reading so I could tell her I'd read it, but I found myself having to skip several graphic parts. I didn't find the main character very likable, the writer switched view points from first person to third from chapter to chapter, which was a little disconcerting for me; and I didn't like how the story ended. It was a happy ending (which as everyone knows by now is a prerequisite for me) but I don't like the way she got there.
It occurred to me that it was basically a complete difference in viewpoint. The one book is written by an apparently well known author (I'd never heard of her before) who is nationally published and has several books out. The other is a little known writer who only writes for Love Inspired. I guess it's plain which one I liked the best.
What struck me is how, even though they contain similar subject matter, they are totally different books. Both contain romance, both are heavily involved with the Amish community, and both have happy endings. But that's not all there is to a book, is it? One was a more, shall we say, modern view of things and behaviors; the other had a more spiritual take on things and what we should be doing. Personal growth.
Have you found yourself comparing books you've read and how differently the authors covered the subject matter? Have you thought about it while writing? I don't think I've ever written more than one book on the same subject or plot, but perhaps if you're writing non-fiction that would be common.
So now I have to figure out how to tell my friend I hated the book without hurting her feelings. It's a good thing she's not the author.