A novel about a young disenchanted reporter who is given a throwaway assignment to interview a 79-year-old hospice patient but finds adventure instead has landed a local author a prestigious award.
Sara Brunsvold of Johnson County, Kansas, is one of three authors to be chosen as finalists for the prestigious Christy Award in literature. Her debut novel, The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, is a contemporary Christian story of friendship breaking through boundaries, and living life with vigorous love, even against enormous odds.
“This is what Christian fiction should be. . . .” wrote Goodreads reviewer Victoria Lynn. “It doesn’t just satisfy the desire for a good story, it fills your soul with so much truth, and joy and poignancy and peace and compassion and sorrow that you spill over, probably with tears.”
The Christy Award, named for Catherine Marshall’s enduring bestselling novel, Christy, is a program of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and is the foremost award honoring and promoting excellence in Christian fiction since 1999, Previous winners of the Christy Award have included Becky Wade, Stephen James, Chris Fabry, Davis Bunn, Lynn Austin, and others.
“It’s still surreal to think that this character who brought me so much hope is resonating at this level with readers,” says Brunsvold. “Praise God for what he is doing through this story. I am amazed and humbled to be a finalist!”
Brunsvold was first encouraged to pursue creative writing in seventh grade and instantly fell in love with fiction. “Being a novelist is all I’ve ever truly wanted to be, but it took me most of my life to get serious about pursuing writing fiction as a career,” Brunsvold explained. “I started seriously pursuing writing in 2012.”
She honed in on the idea when she learned about a program in Independence, Mo., which featured volunteers interviewing hospice patients and compiling their stories, memories, and advice into a keepsake book for patients’ families. As Sara began to write, the novel profoundly impacted her own life.
“I was going through a very difficult season,” she recalls. “Like most authors, I write to process, so I began infusing into Mrs. Kip—her reactions, her words, her thoughts—the principles of biblical womanhood that I was learning at the time. In this way, Mrs. Kip ministered to me first. The story has forever shifted my view of hardship and God’s hand at work in our lives.”
Brunsvold also hopes the words God gives her change other lives, “My overarching prayer for every story I am given the opportunity to write is that God would use it to come alongside what he is already doing in the reader’s life. With this book, hopefully, readers come away with an awakened joy for surrendering to God’s will and, for women specifically, inspiration to invest in their younger sisters’ faith development, as Titus 2:3–5 encourages.”
Revell Publishers will release Brunsvold’s second novel, The Divine Proverb of Streusel, the story of a young woman navigating a family crisis by cooking her way through her great-grandmother’s German recipes, in January 2024. She is also signed to write two more novels with Revell.
Brunsvold has also won this year’s Carol Award, presented by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), for the Debut Author category, as well as several other awards. She will be participating in the Author Fair at the Woodneath Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library on November 18, 2023
The Winners of the Christy Award will be livestreamed on Thursday, November 16 on the ChristyAwards.com website.
—Jeanette Gardner Littleton is a seasoned author and editor and is director of Heart of America Christian Writers Network (HACWN), where she first met Sara Brunsvold at a HACWN writers conference. To learn more about HACWN events, including their November 2–4 conference, visit HACWN.org.