Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer

Click to see a larger image of Saint Training by Elizabeth FixmerSaint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer
Published by Zonderkidz, an imprint of Zondervan

Mary Clare O’Brien has one goal for her future: to become a saint. When she prays to God, she makes deals with Him in exchange for the things her family really needs – money to pay the bills, her brother to be safe as he has been drafted for the war in Vietnam, and for the new baby her mother is carrying to be healthy. But things aren’t working the way Mary Clare believes they should, so she turns to a Mother Superior at a local convent for answers, and it is in her communication with the Mother that she begins to see the black and white world she’s always lived in with some shades of gray.

Saint Training ended up winning the INSPY award for Literature for Young People, and I have to say that I personally loved the book and am glad that it won. There are so many topics covered in this novel – the Vietnam war, feminism, race relations, the changing Catholic church in the 60’s – but at its heart is a story about a girl who is coming into her own understanding of her faith. That type of story is exactly what I am looking for when I am picking up Christian fiction, and I am so happy to say that Saint Training is an excellent example of Christian literature for teens for this reason.

While there are quite a few topics in the book, it never feels overdone or flooded with “issues”. Rather, these topics serve as the backdrop for Mary Clare’s coming of age journey. In the beginning of the novel, Mary Clare sees the world around her as completely black and white – things are either right or wrong, and she has a hard time comprehending how people could see certain things that she knows to be wrong as being okay. She spends so much time at the beginning of the novel attempting to find the answers to all these questions she has about the world around her, and what’s beautiful about the book is that she comes to realize there aren’t always going to be solid answers to every question she has. Things happen in the world that we can’t explain and can’t comprehend, and slowly over the course of the novel Mary Clare begins to get that. What is awesome about her journey is that she doesn’t allow these questions to tamper with her faith in God – rather, her faith becomes even stronger as she understands how complicated the world He created really can be. I feel like I need to apologize because I’m not explaining this very well, but trust me – Mary Clare herself is an amazing character of YA fiction and her faith journey was such a joy for me to read about.

I love, loved Saint Training. There’s a reason this book won the INSPY award for Literature for Young People – it is fantastic.

This review was syndicated on BlogHer February 24, 2012.


13 thoughts on “Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer”

  1. Same for me — I’m not a big reader of Christian fiction, but this book sounds wonderful. It sounds like a story my mother or grandmother would tell me about their childhoods, honestly!

    1. I’m with you, overtly preaching in Christian books is SO not my thing. But I like the Christian fiction that’s more mainstream, for sure.

  2. I love the messages that you took away from this book, and think that I would also enjoy reading it. It seems like this one is not about all the ways that your faith has to disappoint you, but the ways that it can grow to encompass the things that you see around you everyday. This was a particularly wonderful review, and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Heather! Yes you have it right exactly – faith can and should change as people evolve over time, and this book showed that incredibly well.

  3. Your assessment of this book is very intriguing and encouraging to spend the time reading it. The points of view about so many different issues, all from a young person’s perspective, seem very interesting and realistic. Should be a good book for family reading. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  4. Nice review, Heather. I’ve read a few Christian fiction titles and enjoyed them. This is the first I’ve seen that involves the Catholic faith. Since I was raised Catholic in the same era as the book I’m interested. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  5. Born a Catholic in 1955, I could relate to the issues that MC was facing. I am still a devout Catholic (having made it through my teen years and now 39 years of marriage under my belt, having had ten children and my Catholic Faith completely intact, thanks be to God). I am now a grandmother of 12, with five of our ten still not married. I could relate to many things that MC was going through, even though I was raised so far out in the country in Western MA that I had never even heard of Catholic school, nor had I been exposed to large, Catholic families (I was one of five, but when I was growing up, the number of kids in a family wasn’t something that we paid attention to as “Catholic” or not). I enjoyed a lot of the book, but there were two things that I really wanted to comment on. The first was MC’s reaction to her neighbor’s statement that (paraphrasing) “everyone thinks their religion is the true religion”. I do NOT think that that is true at all; in fact I have found that most people don’t really care whether their religion is The True Religion or not. Most people haven’t even thought about it; they are simply comfortable where they are. The Catholic Faith IS the One, True Religion, being that It’s the only one that was founded by the Son of God and proven with countless miracles, culminating with His victory over death itself. No other religion even comes near claiming that. It is a fact that that the Catholic religion is the religion from which all other Christian religions have spun from, discarding this or that dogma that they did not like.

    The other issue was the issue of the civil disobedience in the 1960’s. I got the impression from the way Fixmer wrote, that those who didn’t want to take part in civil disobedience (or didn’t allow their voluntary-obedience-bound members of the religious communities to do so) didn’t care about the issues, which seemed to be an unfair way to portray those people. There is serious disagreement over whether the leaders and founders of those different civil rights movements were actually attempting to achieve the end they said they were or whether they might have been true “rabble-rousers”, with their main goal being inciting disobedience overall. There is a lot of room for discussion on that!

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