Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: Light From Distant Stars

Light From Distant Stars - Shawn Smucker
Revell Publishers
391 Pages

Once in awhile, I will browse the Inspirational shelves at the Lockport Library to see if there’s anything that may grab my attention. I am typically not one for reading any religious book, but I have found several treasures among those novels over the years. Such is the case with Light From Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker. 

Cohen Marah opens the novel by stepping over the body of his father in the basement of the funeral home where they both work. Going on with the rest of his day as if nothing has happened, he watches his nephew play baseball while waiting for the inevitable call from one of his employees upon discovery of the body. Imagine his surprise when the call comes and tells him that his father is on the way to the hospital.

From this moment, Cohen flips back and forth between childhood memories and modern events, seemingly intertwined with each other. His father, once a minister, was disgraced and relegated to owning a funeral home in a nearby city. Cohen’s mother left his father taking Cohen’s sister with him and leaving him with his father. 

Entering his formative teenage years in a strange and new city, Cohen struggles to find friends, and instead lurks near his own home. One day, he meets a mysterious brother and sister who lead him into a dark adventure that will redefine his life. It is at this point that the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred, and you wonder what exactly happened to Cohen during that fateful teenage time. As his father inches closer to death, more memories from Cohen’s childhood come rushing back. Secrets that he had long held at bay slowly reveal themselves. And the question arises - did he kill his father and not recall?

This novel explores the changing feelings a son has for his father as he matures. His initial view of his father borders on hero worship, as all young boys want to be just like their dads. Then there is an event that happens that changes a boy’s entire view of his father. Inthe teenage years, there is great distrust, wariness, and distance. Slowly, the distance erodes over time until it seems like they once have a good relationship for the most part.

However, despite all the advancements made in their relationship, it is an argument that the two share as last words between them. And when his estranged mother shows up, the discomfort between them is palpable. It is Cohen’s sister who holds it together throughout the ordeal. In the end, it is the combination of a pair of tragedies and a miracle that show Cohen just exactly how good his life has been and how lucky he is to be where he is at that moment.

Shawn Smucker writes a novel that shows the inner chemistry of a seemingly normal family. Each family has its own idiosyncrasies despite what outward appearances are. He also shows how traumatic events can be repressed to protect our sanity. Smucker weaves the past and present together to make Cohen a very believable which the reader has great empathy. Light From Distant Stars is a great read that has a very good main character and his teenage feelings towards his parents may seem familiar to some. 

Craig Bacon thinks his favorite books are the ones that explore the human condition.