Friday, September 25, 2009

The Familiar Stranger

By Christina Berry
Published by Moody Publishers (2009)
320 pages


Love … Betrayal … Forgiveness … Restoration

When Craig Littleton leaves his home, he plans to never return, to abandon his wife and sons in pursuit of freedom. And his detailed plans are foolproof.
     But, as he literally drives on the road toward liberty, he’s involved in a severe accident. He lives, but all his memories are gone.
     His wife, Denise, unaware of his plans to desert the family, nurses him back to health, and he learns to love her again.
     But then, his memories come tumbling back …
     Will he be able to restore all the lives he broke before the accident?

In the tradition of Francine Rivers, debut author, Christina Berry, delivers an impactful story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, & new beginnings. Her unique method of telling the story from both Denise’s and Craig’s point-of-view adds dimension to the characters, & depth to the emotions. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!
     Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers. Find her at and

Thanks, Christina, for taking time to chat with me. I look forward to getting to know you.

I'm wondering, as a writer for the CBA market, how important is the faith element in your books?
     My faith undergirds every scene that I write. My hope is that it comes across to the reader in a very organic way, never as preachy or self-righteous. However, my characters’ spiritual arcs are a huge part of the storyline.

Then, what role does God play when you write?
     I believe He guides the story, adding layers I’m not even capable of comprehending while I write it. I’m not great at starting my writing time with prayer, but I try to stay open to where He might lead me.
     I see writing as one of the tools He uses to form me into His image—a tool to teach me patience, self-control, determination, reliance on Him, and other life lessons. I also see writing as a gift that brings hope, fulfillment, and purpose when the rest of my life is falling apart.

Some Christian writers argue that fiction is first and foremost entertainment and decry any "agenda driven" stories. What is your opinion?
     I say we're all writing with an agenda, whether we recognize it or not. Maybe it's to show what a godly romance looks like, maybe to draw attention to child abuse, maybe to attempt to understand why people are capable of such evil, or ... With this book, I felt called to share what God has taught me about forgiveness. That is definitely my agenda, which correlates with my tagline: Live transparently—Forgive extravagantly.
     However, if the story is not presented in a highly entertaining way the agenda will never be accomplished because the reader will toss the book down if she gets bored. The real skill—and I am by no means saying I'm setting the watermark with my writing—is to so thoroughly wrap the story around the agenda that it becomes unrecognizable to the reader. I'd love to hear other’s opinions in the comments.

I absolutely agree. I definitely have an agenda when I write. The difficulty comes in keeping the story flowing without watering down the message.

And, like you, I’m a literature major. What effect did your college education have on your writing?
     Honestly, I went with the lit major instead of creative writing because I was chicken. I was scared that my writing would not be up to par and I would get less than an A in a class for the first time. Eek! Plus, I loved to read and I figured I might as well do something I liked since I was paying thousands of dollars anyway.
     However, I do believe it has added greatly to my writing. While we can't be super symbolic in a "preachy" sort of way--like shouting LOOK! LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL SYMBOLISM I'M SHOWING RIGHT NOW!--I think many novels do subtly inject many of the same characteristics of the classics. For example, the setting can almost become a character, as the setting of Jane Eyre does.
     In the manuscript my mother and I wrote together, a lot of the structure came from Mrs. Dalloway. The novel even has similar themes, now that I think about it. I loved the idea of a story jumping from character to character as they pass without interacting, but as the novel progresses, the connections get stronger.
     All those stories I read and wrote papers on in college are still swimming around in my head, rubbing off a little bit here or there on the flow of ideas that pour onto my computer screen.

Who are your favorite literary artists?
     I believe that much of Jane Kirkpatrick's work could be classified as literary. Jamie Langston Turner is another favorite who definitely fits the bill. Leif Enger's Peace Like a River amazed me. (I have it on my night stand to re-read right now, as it's been years and years since I have!) All three authors put words together in a delicious way.

Are there others whose work you admire? How have they influenced you as a writer?
     Most of my favorite authors have voices I never dream to come close to: Nancy E. Turner, Jane Kirkpatrick, Leif Enger, Francine Rivers, or Randy Alcorn, to name a few. The writers that really influence my stories are ones that examine the real grittiness of life like Roxanne Henke, Bette Nordberg, and James Scott Bell.

Those are some of my favorites too! Since you like lyric prose, you should also try Charles Martin, W. Dale Cramer, Athol Dickson, Ann Tatlock, Linda Nichols … well I could go on, but it’s time to let you go.

Thanks so much, Christina, for visiting Spire Reviews today. I really appreciate you taking the time, allowing us to get to know you better. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Be sure to catch Christina on her next stop: on Saturday, September 26.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of The Familiar Stranger. Everyone who comments on this tour will be entered into Christina’s 10 book giveaway. On her birthday, September 30, she will draw 10 names. She’ll repeat this process on October 31.

Also, if you sign up for her infrequent, humorous newsletter at , you will be entered into a contest to win a 4GB iPod Shuffle or free books for the life of Christina’s writing career.



  1. Christina,
    Your book sounds fantastic! I look forward to reading it. If I don't win a free one, I intend to buy it.

    Thanks, Brenda, for sharing Christina's story with us!

    Hugs to both of you,
    Linda Fulkerson

  2. You're welcome, Linda. Thanks for checking out the review. I know you'll love the book.


  3. Oh, Brenda, I LOVE Ann Tatlock. And Charles Martin has been recommended three times just this week! Thank you for posting this.

    Linda, thank you so much!

  4. I'm a fan of Charles Martin and Peace Like a River!! And Christina, too! What a fun interview.

  5. Christina, it's always a joy to tell the world about great books. It was an honor to be included in your blog tour.

    Jennifer, thanks for stopping by Spire Reviews. And congrats on your Genesis contest win! What an awesome award. Maybe someday we'll be blogging about your books.