Title: How the Light Gets In
Author: Jolina Petersheim
Publication Day: March 5th, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Format: Paperback ARC
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.
Booktimistic Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A beautifully written, simple and heartfelt story about grief and forgiveness, marriage and motherhood, How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim surprised me. I didn’t know what to expect out of this book, because having read the premise first, I was a little put off, since it felt like the entire plot and twists were revealed in that short blurb, but was I wrong! Don’t let it fool you either, the blurb has nothing on the whole story. They say never judge a book by its cover, let me add – never judge a book by its premise either!
Twenty nine year old Ruth’s world comes crashing down when a terrorist bomb destroys a hospital in Afghanistan, killing everyone inside within minutes including Ruth’s husband and father-in-law, who were both working as doctors without borders for a relief organization. Overcome with grief, and not able to fathom how her life took such a huge wrong turn, Ruth accepts her mother-in-law’s invitation to travel to Wisconsin, to bury both the deceased, and stay for a while among the close-knit Mennonite community, which her late husband, Chandler belonged to. Chandler’s cousin, Elam welcomes them in their home and offers Ruth with a temporary job at his cranberry farm.
As Ruth struggles with her daily life of trying to cope with the sudden loss of her husband and raising her two young girls all by herself, she finds unexpected solace in this foreign land. She discovers she likes working the land on the farm and also gradually finds herself on the path of healing and acceptance, and is grateful for the kindness and understanding of the community.
Parallel to Ruth’s present life story, we also get glimpses of the past – how Ruth met Chandler, how they fell in love, how they married and had the girls, how the relationship progressed, their highs and lows in the relationship, everything until the day Chandler left for Afghanistan – and all this is in the form of letters, which I personally thought was a wonderful intimate touch to the story.
The second part of the story is where the twist happens, and Ruth needs to pick one of two nearly impossible choices. What she picks and why, is an excellent topic for an epic book club discussion, because every individual’s decision and their respective right and wrong would be based on a number of factors – how they deal with grief, how they recover, how easily they forgive, if they do so at all, their priorities, their heartbreak and their own personal redemption. There’s no right or wrong when there are only two ways and they both hurt someone. I’d just leave it at that.
But wait, just when you think you know how the story ends, there’s that final twist, and I was baffled by how the author suddenly changed directions. Truthfully, I was still okay with how she chose to wrap-up Ruth’s story, but I am positive there will to be a great divide among the readers over this ending. People will either strongly agree or disagree, and you need to read the book to find out which side you’re on.
One last thing I’d like to mention is that towards the end, there’s an extremely touching and personal author’s note, where Jolina Petersheim talks a bit about her own life struggles that inspired her to write this story. Make sure you don’t miss that, it provides a deeper insight into what instigated Ruth’s story.
Overall, How the Light Gets in by Jolina Petersheim is a beautiful, heartfelt contemporary that’ll invoke too many emotions, but will ultimately leave the reader healed.
Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by Tyndale House and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.