Since my fiction frequently focuses on characters grappling with religious issues, it is not surprising that hymns show up at odd times. Until I did a global search, however, I had not fully realized how often two particular hymns appeared. “How Great Thou Art” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” appear in three of my novels. The other thing I discovered is that these and other hymns usually appear at pivotal moments in the story, usually when the protagonist confronts the pull of a childhood religion. That longing is best expressed by the following passage from Hidden Warriors. In it, the main character finds herself at a church service after a lifetime’s absence:
“The harmonies were ambrosial. I reveled in them even as I warded off the memories, but it was no use. I could bludgeon my lips into obedient stiffness, but my shallow breaths betrayed me.
"Stop getting so emotional, I thought over and over. It’s unseemly. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself. But the unruly tears still threatened.
"More prayer and songs followed. I barely kept up, carried along in a wave of yearning no amount of self reproach could hold back. This service had been a staple of my life for eighteen years of Sundays. It called now with plaintive, hypnotic voice, and I finally let myself glory in it, even as I reminded myself that I did not belong, that this church or any other one like it could never be a true home for me. I told myself that the songs I was hearing were simply the lullabies of a childhood I now missed and that I had to remain vigilant. They still cloaked a dangerous theology.”
I hope I have treated this common yearning of my characters in sufficiently unique ways. If I haven't, that would be interesting since my characters range in age from childhood to middle age, and they include businesswomen, a courtesan, a photographer, a welder, a few ministers and, yes, some atheists. If I’m lucky enough to get all my novels published some day, maybe some enterprising student will take up as his or her thesis topic the issue of whether I’ve written the same novel multiple times.