Light from Distant Stars Cover

Light from Distant Stars

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Genre: Christian Fiction / Magical Realism / Rural Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 16, 2019
Number of Pages: 400

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Light from Distant Stars book cover

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.

Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood comes back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his parents’ separation. The accident Cohen witnessed and the traumatic images he couldn’t unsee. 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:

Is he responsible for his father’s death?

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.

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Clueless Gent’s Rating

5 star rating

Light from Distant Stars will latch onto your heart like a magnet and take your emotions on a trip to infinity and back. I will remember this story by Shawn Smucker for the rest of my life. Maybe longer.

If you’ve ever lost someone very close to you, such as a parent, then you already know there’s a place in your heart that just aches. It may lessen in time, but it never really goes away. That’s the place this story touches! Yet it does it in an utterly subtle and tender way. I’m not sure if that’s what Shawn Smucker intended, but there it is.

For the record, this is not a story about outer space. The title has to do with our young protagonist’s astonishment at the concept of a light year: the amount of time it takes light to travel in the time span of one year. He learns that some of the stars we see in the sky are from planets that have died, but because they’re so far away, we still see the light. If you don’t know, a light year is almost six trillion miles. (If you’re interested, but it’s been a long time since science class, here’s a good YouTube video about light distance measurements.)

How Light from Distant Stars Rolls

The story surrounds Cohen, our protagonist, a middle-aged man who works in a local funeral home. As the story opens, something tragic just happened to Cohen’s father. We don’t know if it’s an accident or something more sinister.

Cohen begins reflecting back to earlier times, and the man his father used to be. Through flashback segments, we discover how Cohen and his father became the people they are today.

After his unconscious father is admitted to the hospital, we hear that the prognosis is not good. Nothing more can be done for him. Although Cohen spends most of his time at his father’s bedside, he begins making daily trips to a church a few blocks away. He has a need to confess his sins – daily. He is shrouded in guilt. Why?

I do not want to reveal any more of the plot, but I will say that Smucker did an excellent job of tackling some harsh subjects. This was a very dysfunctional family!

Technically Speaking

I’m at a loss on how to communicate to you just how wonderful this story is. When I first started reading, it seemed good, but not anything special. However, then Smucker turns the key on the emotion generators, and you’re just . . . transfixed, for lack of a better word.

One thing that this author does better than most is description. His description is smooth! Here’s an example: “She let go of his hand, not in the way you drop something but in the way a boat drifts from the dock.” Shawn Smucker continually lulls us with his words. He makes it easy for us to feel the emotions.

The pacing was right on the money. It’s not fast, but it’s constant. As such, we begin to formulate an opinion on what really happened. When the climax arrives, regardless of whether your opinion was correct, you just feel a sense of peace. I did. I don’t really know why, but it was very profound.

My mother passed away about 18 months ago. During the last ten days of her life, I kept vigil by her bedside. I felt many of the same emotions as Cohen did. There was love, there was guilt, there was futility.

This story touched me on a very deep level. I can’t recommend it enough.

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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Photo of Light from Distant Stars hardcover edition
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Shawn Smucker Author Photo

Shawn Smucker is the author of the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, as well as the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Book Meme - First Line: "Cohen Marah clears his throat quietly, more out of discomfort than the presence of any particular thing that needs clearing, and attempts to step over the body for the second time."
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GRAND PRIZE: Light from Distant Stars
+ Look to the Stars 8”x5” Journal + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card;
2ND PRIZE: Copy of Light from Distant Stars
+ Personal Library Kit;
3RD PRIZE: Copy of Light from Distant Stars
+ $10 Starbucks Gift Card.
July 17-27, 2019
(U.S. Only)
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