I have this new toy burning a hole in my fingers and I want to use it. But I’m fresh out of good books, having decided that Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time just isn’t for me. (If you want people to believe in the largeness of your magical world, you have to write better than he seemed to be able to.) Since one of the myriad reasons for my splurge on the new Kindle was that the old one was brokenish–the UP button on the 5-way doesn’t work anymore–I exercise the UP button on the new one, just to be sure.
All of this conspires to land me with a slim electronic file called Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser. The download costs me nothing, and right there I should suspect that this is one of the Free Faith Fiction titles that scurries around Amazon like so many well-meaning cockroaches. Over the years I’ve become more vocal about my distaste for Faith Fiction, getting more vocal in my dismissals as I read fewer and fewer titles under that banner. So out of a twin sense of desperation and inertia I decide to give this book a whirl, even after seeing the Bethany House banner once I open the file.
It starts off passably well for a free book. This is Nannerl, she’s as good as Wolfie, but he’s a brat and she’s a Good Little Girl. They play music to please their father and make money, but soon Wolfie overshadows Nannerl. And that’s when the Shift sets in.
This summer as I argued with CBA authors about why Christian writers should strive to write outside the Christian Booksellers’ market, I couldn’t articulate my arguments beyond “the books need to be relatable to a larger audience.” Other authors counter with “I have drinking and gay people and card games in my books.” It wasn’t until I met Nancy Moser’s version of Nannerl Mozart that I could really authentically say what the root of the problem is.
Much of Christian fiction seeks to remake it’s central characters into someone the readers recognise as themselves. As opposed to regular fiction, which seeks to make central characters that readers recognise. When you pick up To Kill A Mockingbird, you know Mayella Ewell. She’s every dirt poor and ignorant woman oppressed by circumstance. You most likely aren’t Mayella, but you know her. When you read The Winds Of War you know Pug Henry as the kind of man whose dogged determination, cleverness and essential humanity helped us end the Second World War. You are most likely not a Naval Attache to Nazi Germany, nor are you a captain on a battleship. But you know the man Pug Henry is. The qualities you share (or admire) in him, make it enjoyable to join him on his journey. But you know that Pug is not you. And that’s a good thing, because if you wanted to hang out with you, you don’t have to spend $9.99 to do so.
But Nannerl Mozart, as rewoven for the Faith Fiction market is a really weird reading experience. Because about a hundred pages into the story, it’s obvious that Nannerl is just a cypher. Here is an actual human being about whom we know much information, about whom a cursory search revealed no fewer than twenty books. Yet Nancy Moser chooses to make Nannerl speak the dialect of a modern woman who embraces a contemporary (to us) theology. Nannerl is indistinguishable in character from the type of woman who is most likely to buy books from the Christian Bookseller’s Association. In short, Nannerl isn’t Nannerl Mozart. She’s Nannerl McEvangelical Middle Class American Woman.
Out of curiousity I read the reviews for the book on both Amazon and Goodreads–the majority of which are 5 stars–the most you can give. The majority sounded as though they were written by the same person with the same basic education. “I didn’t know Mozart had a sister” and “This is a terrific book” were both in heavy rotation.
Well, I DID know that Mozart had a sister (blame a binge of Mozart biographies when I was 15). And I know that Nannerl Mozart was nothing like Nancy Moser’s version. She was her own real person. And that’s the essence of what troubles me about Faith Fiction. It perpetuates the idea that Christianity is for a small cultural subset who look and act and talk like the middle-aged, middle-class woman who is the target market for the CBA. Outsiders need not apply.