Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker – Book Review, Preview

Posted July 11, 2019 by Phyllis Helton in Best of the Year, Book Reviews, New Releases /

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Never having read anything written by Shawn Smucker, I was unsure what to expect from his book, Light from Distant Stars. Intrigued by the description, I decided I needed to read it…

Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker – Book Review, Preview

Light from Distant Stars

by Shawn Smucker

Published by Fleming H. Revell Company
Publication Date July 16, 2019
Genres: Christian Fiction
Setting: Pennsylvania Contemporary
Main Character Ages: 25-60, 1-14
Written for: Adults
Pages: 400


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?

In Light from Distant Stars, master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.

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Light from Distant Stars is an amazing and masterfully told story! There are so many layers and so much mystery. It tells of the journey for the understanding and for the peace which has eluded Cohen for decades. Assaulted by feelings of guilt, he explores memories long buried.

The writing is beautiful in a melancholy way; prose turned to poetry. The imagery created by the words is haunting and poignant and was not overdone or tiresome. I found myself caught between wanting to luxuriate in reading, to slowly savor each word and wanting to hurry through to find out what happened next.

The subject matter was rather weighty and the overall tone was somber. At one point, I told my husband that it was interestingly creepy. Not because I like creepy – I don’t. While there were suspenseful elements to it, I don’t consider it to be a suspense story. While there was a mystery, that wasn’t the point of the book. The mystery was merely a vessel to transport the reader through the story.

If I was to pick an overarching theme, it would be one of redemption. As Cohen searched the archives of his mind for comfort and for answers, he was seeking absolution. I appreciated how the author demonstrated that by bringing our sins to the light takes away the power they have over us. How it is through confession fellowship is restored with God.

As a side note, the story is written in the third person present tense, except the portions where Cohen is examining his memories. This was surprisingly effective. If you’ve read many of my reviews, you may recall that I do not like present tense much. This was done so well, I didn’t even realize this until I was at least halfway through. It was a great way to separate the memory portions from the events of the “current” time (which was actually 2015).

I am looking forward to reading more books by Shawn Smucker.


About Shawn Smucker

I think everyone’s looking for a place in the world – not a physical location as much as an emotional one. Just a tiny bit of space to set up shop, to exist.

Life hinted at where that space would be for me when I was a small boy and books picked me up and carried me away. If you came looking for me in the mid-80s you would have found me sitting on a large porch attached to a ramshackle farmhouse, reading about Narnia or the Shire, brushing away the flies, constantly saying, “Okay, mom, just one more chapter.”

But then, normal life, with all of its misleading promises and plastic desires, got in the way. I wandered. Geographically, I went to a hot city in Florida, an old village in England, and then back to Virginia. Emotionally, I traveled even further. Finally, after ten years of searching, I found stories again. Or maybe they found me.

Now I live in that place I was always trying to find. I wake up beside my beautiful wife, Maile. I make breakfast for my six children. I spend the rest of the day capturing stories, doing what Steinbeck called the impossible: trying to explain the inexplicable. Trying to transplant stories from my mind to yours.


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