Friday, February 1, 2019

Book Review and Giveaway - How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

Book Synopsis
From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever.

But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Review
When Ruth Neufeld's husband is killed on a humanitarian mission overseas, she and her young daughters go to stay with her husband's cousin, Elam, in Wisconsin.  Her mother-in-law, Mabel, whose husband was lost during the same mission, stays there as well.  Ruth is surprised when she develops feelings for Elam.  When she learns her husband may not be lost after all, everything changes.

This is my first read by Jolina Petersheim, and I love her writing style.  She writes the most beautiful descriptions, and is wonderful at capturing atmosphere.   This novel is set in a small Mennonite community on a cranberry farm in Wisconsin.  I found everything about this setting new and fascinating, and I loved the details. For instance:

"Elam awoke before the sun and walked out of his house into the fields.  The smell of peat from the cranberry bog rose around him  He thought about all the leaves that had fallen off the ring of silver birches and sifted down through the bog's layers of sand. . . .  The fog rolled in across the land like an opaque carpet.  This subtle transition was Elam's favorite part of morning, when everything was quiet and there was nothing to say or do" (p. 9).

There are some wonderful characterizations in this novel, including Ruth and Mabel, and the way their relationship in many ways mirrors the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi.  Elam was my favorite character.  He is seen as strong but quiet, gentle, and kind.  From his physical description I pictured the Alexander Godunov character in the movie Witness.  There is a triangle of sorts between Elam, Ruth, and Chandler (her husband who was presumed lost for much of the story) and I was firmly on team Elam.  

There are several BIG twists in this storyline.  I won't say more because I don't want to give spoilers.  I was extremely surprised with the final twist, and reread the last chapter of the book for details and nuance.   I am not sure what I think about the twists and the denouement.  I thought the story was going one place (a retelling of Ruth and Naomi, and Ruth and Boaz) and then it went somewhere totally different.   I think this novel would be a very good discussion group book for this reason.  I believe it is a book that will generate many opinions.   I know would love to talk about it in a group setting!

I believe that fans of Christian women's fiction, especially anyone interested in Mennonite life, will enjoy How the Light Gets In.   I especially recommend this book as a group read for a discussion group.

Author Bio
Jolina Petersheim and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s fifth novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.


Connect with Jolina

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.


Jolina Petersheim said...

Thank you for your wonderful review, Trish! I appreciate your support as I launch this book baby! :)


Sara Strand said...

Thank you for being on the tour!

Sara @ TLC Book Tours