Thursday, November 14, 2013

One Light Still Shines by Marie Monville

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

Although she might dislike the characterization, this book is most easily described as the memoir of the wife of the Amish schoolhouse shooting. In reality, it is the compelling narrative of the forced maturation of a young woman in the midst of tragedy. The fact that national attention-capturing tragedy is the catalyst for this transformation is really tangential to the ultimate story, but also the reason it was published in the first place.

The first half of the book is "before" - the tragedy and immediate aftermath through the funeral; the second half is "after" - the process of a family's healing and ultimately the formation of a new family as the author, Marie Monville remarries seven months after her husband's death.

The book wisely and realistically does not dwell on the shooter, Charlie Roberts. His actions, taking hostage and eventually killing a number of young Amish girls in 2006, are so discordant from the man his family knew, there really is no point in dwelling on the why. As the mother of three young kids, Monville is more consumed with coping with he loss of a husband and father.

The depth of loss, grief, and forgiveness are poignant and moving. The narrative starts off with big words and verbose descriptions that sound a bit too professional. Maybe Monville writes this way (this well), but the ghostwriter on the front probably indicates otherwise. Still, the prose is pretty genuine and you get over the polish of it pretty quickly.

A ghostwriter provides a mediated reality. While there is a compelling narrative of personal transformation, the book (any book) creates a character. While the character is expressing the author's views, they are expressed through someone else's perspective. This particular book is hyper-focused on a narrative of hope, that God is faithful in all situations. I would personally be interested in some of the other narratives that run through such a compelling story. I wonder what we're missing.

None of that lessens the value and impact of the book, however, which is a truly powerful story of faith and growth. Monville uses a lot of insider language, things that will make sense to Zondervan's largely evangelical audience, but language that will likely put a barrier between the story and readers who may be coming to the book not for a spiritual treatise, but because of her connection to the Amish shooting and who could potentially benefit from its testimony.

While I've never read any Christian Romance novels, I suspect the second half of the book may look pretty similar. The story of her whirlwind second romance is presented believably, but the choice of words is probably not most effective for a broad audience. Throughout the book the prose can be exhaustive and as a pastor, I have some serious questions about the lengths she goes to explain away her husband's tragedy, still, it's a powerfully candid book from a rare and unique perspective. That value is well worth the extra hundred pages for those interested in ways people face and process difficult situations.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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