Book Review: How The Light Get In

24 Jan

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.

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.


My Impressions:

At first glance, How The Light Gets In is merely a contemporary retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi, two women struggling to make sense of loss and begin a new life. And while that is how the book starts, Petersheim quickly brings the reader into a deeper story of lost dreams. This novel takes the reader on a twisting journey that leaves the characters (and perhaps the reader) shocked, dismayed, and finally resolved that their lives will be new and whole. I don’t usually read what others think of books before writing down my own thoughts. But because of the mixed feelings I had about How The Light Gets In, I looked at a few of the early reviews. That pursuit really didn’t help. I have decided that readers will want to come to their own conclusions based on their own reactions to this complex story. That’s why it will make a great book club selection — everyone is going to have an opinion! And that is just one reason why I am giving it a recommended rating.

How The Light Gets In is a story of a family, a marriage, and individuals. That’s really how life is — one is not merely a daughter, or a wife, or a mom, but all mixed together in a slightly discordant mosaic, whole, but with pieces not always fitting together snugly. Ruth Nuefeld finds herself a single mom and virtually homeless after the death of her husband Chandler. She packs up her two girls and moves with her mother-in-law to a foreign land — a Mennonite community in Wisconsin. As grief consumes her, she struggles to raise her young daughters. This part of the story, resembles the Ruth story of the Bible fairly well. It helped me look at the loss that Ruth and Naomi felt as they left their lives in Moab to finish out their days in Bethlehem. But as the book progresses, How The Light Gets In is all Ruth. Of course there are other strong characters such as Chandler and Elam, but to me they serve to further Ruth’s progress. Loss, grief, and forgiveness are intertwined. Anger at her dead spouse and her loss of identity beyond wife and mother are at the forefront of Ruth’s character development. She has a lot to work through! And so does the reader. There are lots of surprises along the way in this novel. Some will be welcomed by the reader, others not so much. At one point in the book, I had to reconsider all I had read before. It was a daunting task, but made me go back and re-read passages with a new eye. So, my advice to you is to take your time reading this book. Keep an eye out for subtleties of behavior and attitudes. How The Light Gets In is also not a light read. Emotions are raw and the circumstances often a bit close to home. Don’t expect this book to be your weekend read. 😉

You may be asking yourself after reading my thoughts, should I really read this book? I say yes. It is an intriguing novel of loss and forgiveness that is perhaps best read with the anticipation of discussing it later or along the way. Get a couple of friends to join you on the journey — you will want to talk about this book.


Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to TLC and Tyndale for a complimentary ARC. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

11 Responses to “Book Review: How The Light Get In”

  1. Lisa Munley January 24, 2019 at 11:42 am #

    Sounds like a great book for discussion!! Thanks for being on the tour.

    • rbclibrary January 24, 2019 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks for the opportunity!

  2. jolinapetersheim January 24, 2019 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you for your wonderful review, Beckie! Wish I could discuss the story together. 🙂

    • rbclibrary January 24, 2019 at 3:59 pm #

      Me too! <3

  3. Heather J @ TLC Book Tours January 25, 2019 at 10:34 pm #

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

    • rbclibrary January 26, 2019 at 8:04 am #


  4. thebeccafiles January 26, 2019 at 3:34 am #

    This looks so good!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • rbclibrary January 26, 2019 at 8:04 am #

      Hope you like it too!


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