Francena Arnold was one of the first—if not the first—writers of Christian fiction. Her first book, Not My Will, was published in 1946 and became a classic. I read it at least twice and its sequel once. I wasn’t aware (or had forgotten) she had written other books until I saw her Three Shall Be One on a Kindle sale.
In this story, Linda and Tony are a young couple with two little ones. They don’t have much, but they’re happy—at least until Tony’s controlling mother comes for an extended visit and moves them into a nice place with better furniture.
Linda is furious, not only at her mother-in-law, but at her husband for not standing up to her. But Tony has learned through long years of experience that he never wins with his mother, and it’s easiest just to let her have her way.
Linda learns to be quiet for the most part when her mother-in-law is there, despite constant criticism. Occasionally Linda will let slip a sarcastic remark, exasperating Tony.
When Tony’s mother leaves, he and Linda have it out. Tony had thought couples argued when they no longer loved each other, and he is “troubled by the realization that ugly quarrels could come even when they loved.” But after a day apart, they regret their harsh words and make up.
Both Tony and Linda had rejected religion of any kind as a sign of weakness.
Life goes on much the same—until the next mother-in-law visit. An incident then sets off a chain of events none of them could have anticipated.
There are a couple of implausible plot twists in the book that take away from the story, but I can’t go into them here without revealing too much. And this book suffers from the same problem a lot of early Christian fiction had: the main character(s) come to a crisis which leads to their salvation, and then all their problems are solved. Of course, problems don’t go away when we become Christians, though at that point we do have His grace and help and wisdom for them.
If you can look past those issues, though, the book is a sweet, old-fashioned story. I liked that the book didn’t end with Linda’s salvation and showed some of her growth afterward. Also, Linda’s friends’ care for her was a great example. The author shows good understanding of the psychological factors involved in the couple’s troubles.
I looked at Amazon to see what other books they had by Francena Arnold. The Kindle versions of some of them are 99 cents as of this writing, including this title. I’m glad to see someone made them available for the Kindle app, though they are still available in paperback as well.
Have you read Francena Arnold? What did you think of her books?
(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)
I enjoyed your review and have not heard of the author. That’s an interesting point you make about earlier Christian fiction seeming to follow the trend of become a Christian, live happily ever after. I had not thought about Christian fiction trends, but they do definitely exist. The cover has really strong 70s vibes — I’ll have to show it to my daughter who is in graphic design. As odd as it seems to me, she is fascinated with all things 70s and thinks the “look” of the era is wonderful.
That was one of the biggest criticisms of Christian fiction–that the main plot line was always “get saved.” Thankfully the genre has grown and brought out various aspects of Christian life.
This book was published in the 50s, but this may have been a cover from a reprinting in the 70s. It’s interesting that this author’s books keep selling even now.
Sounds like an interesting book. It is sometimes fun to read books set in the 60s or 70s. I will have to go to Amazon and check it out, although I am probably getting too many “to read” books on my Kindle. I need to delete some. I agree that too many Christian books are simplistic in how conflicts are resolved. Thanks for the review.
Is there such a thing as too many books? 😀 Ha. That’s the nice thing about the Kindle app–less need for shelf space. And finding ebooks for free to a dollar or two has greatly added to my book acquisitions.
I read Not My Will years ago. I’ll have to check this out. Thank you!
I hope you enjoy it!
I highly recommend Not My Will and The Light in My Window. I felt like Francena Arnold was masterful with those two books, which did not have that flaw of “get saved and everything gets better.” Not so much with Three Shall Be One. –Ann
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