Review: Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
JD's Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bookmarks

I am quickly becoming a huge Shawn Smucker fan. Having just discovered his writing this year, and reading his first two novels just months ago, I'm still having a difficult time trying to categorize his books. I called The Day the Angels Fell a "psychological fantasy thriller with religious undertones" which sort of works there, but Light From Distant Stars is something else entirely. I finished it days ago and I am still mulling over the story in search of the words with which to write this review. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. When a book leaves me pondering the implications of the plot or the ideas presented in it, I think that is a wonderful thing.

When Cohen Marah steps over the body of his dead father on a cold spring morning, he steps into a labyrinth of memory. In the week that follows, he must confront his traumatic past, a violent present, and the most frightening question of all, did he kill his father?

Light From Distant Stars is a story of people. That may sound trite or ridiculously obvious, but what I mean is these are everyday, average people. People just like you and me who have had joys and hardships, triumphs and trials, disappointments and encouragement, yet still cling to a thread of hope (no matter how thin it may be) that tomorrow will be a brighter day.

This story is one filled with raw emotion. Our cast of characters each go through different ones, but the reader runs the full gamut of all of them right alongside the character. It's a rollercoaster ride of emotions as Cohen and his family face brokenness, fear, hurt, and betrayal. This is a tale of death and life, love and hate, fear and faith, despair and hope. It is a very human story. One which I believe everyone can relate to in some regard and to some degree. That's in part because of the extremely vivid characters that were so true to life. I could see myself in them.

Shawn Smucker
Photo by: John Sanderson of Sanderson Images
It's also due to the exceptionally good writing. Every time I thought I had figured out where something was going Smucker turned things upside down. His writing is like a darker and more literary version of Charles Martin with a bit of Frank Peretti thrown in. Again, I find it difficult to describe but it's entrancing and darkly beautiful. 

There are some heavy topics and issues covered in this story such as, alcoholism, allusions to child abuse, and marital infidelity. But in the end, though not everything is all peachy and warm and fuzzy (because real life isn't either), there are some beautiful moments of hope, renewal, and redemption. One scene in particular near the end brought me to tears and I'm not ashamed to say it. There was also one line that just grabbed me, that while very simple, is also poignant and profound, and I feel it sums up what I gleaned from this book. That line is this: "There is a mender."

I'm going to be thinking on this book for a long time. It's one of my favorites that I've read all year and I highly recommend it.

J.D. Sutter is the producer and host of the Bookworm Banquet podcast and editor of the blog. He is the founder of Porchlight Family Media, a network of quality audio programming and review websites based in Phoenix, AZ.

Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a free copy of this book for promotional purposes. A favorable review was not required. This post contains affiliate links.

J.D. Sutter

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