Three Shall Be One

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?