About Me I am a retired librarian and I now support books and authors through my reviews.

I have always loved to read and I was able to share that love through my work as a public librarian for 22 1/2 years. I now promote literacy by reading, and then writing reviews. I love to support authors by sharing my reviews with others!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim


"Compellingly woven by Jolina Petersheim's capable pen, How the Light Gets In follows a trail of grief toward healing, leading to an impossible choice--what is best when every path will hurt someone?" --Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliancecomes 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.


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.

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. 

MY THOUGHTS..... How the Light Gets in by Jolina Petersheim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have such mixed feelings about How the Light Gets In. It is filled with twists and turns but it is a beautifully written story that covers so many emotions. Grief and loss. First love, lost love, second chance love and love reclaimed. There is hurt and a sense of betrayal but there is also forgiveness. Forgiving yourself, forgiving others and the forgiveness that is always available from God. How the Light Gets In is a modern retelling of the Book of Ruth from the Old Testament. Ruth and Mabel are the contemporary counterparts of Ruth and Naomi and both stories relate to the bond of a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law as they grieve for their lost husbands and work together to rebuild their lives. Ruth Neufeld, her two young daughters and her mother-in-law Mabel travel to Wisconsin to bury their dead husbands in the Mennonite community that was once Mabel's home. Ruth's life has been completely torn apart by not only these two deaths but also the death of her beloved father just a few months earlier. Now, she must find a way to comfort her daughters, help her mother-in-law and adapt to a lifestyle that she has never known. Her late husband's cousin soon steps in to help and it becomes very obvious that Elam Albrecht might easily become so much more than a family member wanting to help his aunt and his cousin's wife.

What follows is a story full of unforseen events and the development of some meaningful relationships. I think that Elam is probably my favorite character. He had never experienced a family of his own and he was immediately taken with Ruth, Sofie and Vivienne. Just as Boaz offered the biblical Ruth a chance to glean the barley fields, Elam encouraged this Ruth to work in his cranberry fields during harvest. It is during these work days that she comes to terms with the fact that she had lost her husband Chandler long before his death; she had become accustomed to living without a husband long before she became a widow. She also begins to see Elam in a different light and to even contemplate a future with him. As their relationship appears to reach another level they share a conversation that sealed my admiration for Elam Albrecht. "Oh, Ruth. I could never not want you. I could never not love you. The problem is I love God even more, and that love makes it impossible for me to compromise you like that." (p. 251)

There are so many other beautiful passages that I highlighted while reading this book. In one passage Ruth assures Elam's sister Laurie that she would never hurt him and this is Laurie's reply. "You shouldn't make promises that you can't keep. We're only human. We can't love someone without also bringing them pain." (p. 178)

And finally, Mabel tells Ruth about a time when she also felt alienated from her own husband and how she was able to regain the love that she thought she had lost by changing her perspective. "I focused on God's love for me, and this awareness caused my heart to expand and my tongue to lose its edge. I became a kinder, gentler person who put my spouse's needs above my own. We went from being partners to being friends again, and by becoming friends again, we became lovers." (p. 305)

How the Light Gets In is filled with passages that enlighten and encourage but this isn't a story that assures a happy ending. In her 'Note from the Author' Jolina Petersheim shares the inspiration for this book and her personal experiences that made it even more special. For some readers How the Light Gets In will have the perfect ending and others may find it disappointing but I can assure you that it will make you think and it will leave you needing to talk about it with others. I can only imagine the discussions that book clubs will be having in the months ahead!

I received a complimentary copy of this book but I voluntarily chose to share my opinions in this review.

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