Contemporary Fiction Book Review: How the Light Gets In

Publisher's Description

"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."

Click here to purchase a copy of this novel for yourself. 

My Review 

How the Light Gets In, by Jolina Petersheim, tells a realistic and emotionally poignant story of one family’s journey through serious loss and grief. At times the story is heavy with extremely wounded emotions and very painful truths. Yet, this journey through and beyond despair and heartache is significantly strengthened and uplifted by meaningful moments of grace and gentle reminders that hope, restoration, and healing are made possible through God’s mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

This novel bravely and boldly explores the complicated effects of unmet expectations, disappointments, and loneliness that can be felt within various relationships, marriage and motherhood, and I couldn’t turn away. I found the stories and perspectives contained within this novel to be incredibly compelling, because Ms. Petersheim has skillfully crafted believable characters who are vulnerable, flawed, and achingly real. I truly empathized with each one of them in turn, seeing myself, for better or for worse, in each of their stories. I saw my own pain reflected in their eyes. I saw their truths in my own heart. 

How the Light Gets In is one of the most thought-provoking novels I have ever read. The questions it raises, and the themes it explores are powerfully intense, necessary, and timely. This well-written novel is gut-wrenchingly raw and honest, yet it is not without hope, truth, and encouragement. It made my pulse race. It made me think deep, hard thoughts. It made me cry. It made me angry. It moved me and shook me, and I couldn't be more grateful for it.

I found How the Light Gets In to be gripping and authentic. This uncommon love story surprised me, thrilled me, and held me in rapt attention page after page. It is a deeply moving and thoughtfully written novel that touched me through its skillful use of relatable characters, meaningful themes, and excellent pacing. Ms. Petersheim is a truly talented storyteller. She is unflinching when it comes to crafting relevant stories that need to be told. Once again, she has written a thoroughly unforgettable book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. A review was not required. The review I have written contains opinions that are entirely my own.

My Reflection

When fiction can make us explore our own hearts, our own motivations, our own insecurities, and our own fears, it is an incredibly marvelous thing. When fiction can nurture positive changes, then written words become something profound and meaningful. This book and its many poignant themes reminds us all that assumptions can be dangerous, empathy is life-changing, relationships are worth nurturing, and forgiveness can lead to healing and reconciliation.

About the Author: Jolina Petersheim

"Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called "outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational" in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post's Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, "an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down," and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina's non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader's Digest, Writer's Digest, Today's Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. 

She 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." --Biography from Jolina Petersheim's author page on

Click her to visit Jolina Petersheim's website.


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