American Religion in Fiction
A few months ago, we discussed our favorite American religious history authors.
Once in a while, I find myself learning vivid new facts and ideas about the American past through great works of "historical fiction." I think these fall into several subcategories. Some are fictional recreations of the past that involve considerable research and painstakingly try to dramatically recreate the past. Kenneth Roberts's Arundel, about Benedict Arnold and the march to Quebec, is a classic in that genre. Others recreate a historical setting for a more fully fictional tale, such as Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (one of my favorite books -- so much better than the movie, which wasn't a bad adaptation). To help students comprehend the subculture of American evangelicalism, many teachers of American religious history have used Shirley Nelson's The Last Year of the War, which I would put in the latter category.
My favorite novel that pertains to American religious history is Russell Banks's Cloudsplitter, a vivid account of John Brown's abolitionist odyssey. Banks's narrative is gripping, and his portrayal of Brown's Calvinist fury has stuck with me, reminding me not to overlook John Brown as a key figure in the history of American religion.
What are other great novels that shed light on American religious history?