Review of Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker   Leave a comment

 

When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends–and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he’s been avoiding: Did he kill his father?

***

 

So where to start? Well first of all, lets get to the finer points of this novel. The writing is beautiful. Shawn Smucker knows how to write a haunting tale with vivid imagery that leaves you feeling like you’re walking between a dream and reality. Shawn explores the depth of a father-son relationship and awakening the faith of a man who’s questioned it ever since the loss of his family when he was young.
It’s a good premise and one I was looking forward to, especially when reading about the mysterious supernatural creature called the Beast that haunted Cohen’s childhood.

The sad thing is that the story never delivered. While the writing is excellent, the story is downright flat and ends up going almost nowhere. Cohen doesn’t know if he’s responsible for the death of this father, hence his nightly visits to confession. Then it’s back to the hospital for some dialogue with his sister before collapsing in a chair and crying about the futility of things and loss of something he can’t explain on the inside. And…we repeat. See where I’m going?

The most interesting parts is when Shawn does the flashback scenes to Cohen’s childhood where he meets two mysterious children on their quest to stop the Beast. Honestly, I feel if Shawn had focused on that part of the story from the start and not bothered with an adult Cohen, it would have been a much stronger and interesting story.
But then we come to the end, where everything we think we’re seeing…we’re really not.

I admit, I wasn’t quite sure where Shawn was going with the story, other than trying in a way to show how fathers can hurt their sons. With the endless repetition and focusing on trivial details that (while written beautifully) didn’t add anything to the story, I feel a lot of what he was trying to tell ended up getting lost.

Verdict: If you’re after good writing, obviously this is a book to enjoy for that. For a good story worthy of keeping on your bookshelf, I’d advise looking for something else.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author from the blogging program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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