Ruth Neufeld is Irish, and she married a good man; one who
cared for orphans in the Colombian mountains she visited.
But he's been killed in a terrorist atrocity, and she's
staring at the walls of his family's stone church in the
Wisconsin Mennonite community. At this point, cuddling her
children, missing Chandler terribly, she can't imagine HOW
THE LIGHT GETS IN to life ever again.
Ruth's in-laws manage a cranberry farm, and while this is
far from anything the bereaved mother has known, she decides
to stay awhile. Her insecurity and lack of knowledge about
customs are easily overcome by helping women make apple
pies, helping men feed Clydesdales; all cousins and
neighbours of her husband. The children Sophie and Vi need
time and peace, and she has no idea how she would support
them in the world of work. But maybe she doesn't have to.
The boggy ground and cranberry harvest can always do with
more hands. In particular, Chandler's first cousins Laurie
and Elam make the family welcome. Laurie demonstrates the
secrets of baking, while Elam is very shy but his presence
is reassuring. As a further tragedy, Chandler senior was
killed in the same blast, and his widow Mabel is also here
trying to make herself feel useful.
Interspersed we get letters six years old. The slums of
Bogota are rife with inequality, and Chandler's public
service job pays just enough to keep the family. I confess I
didn't read these closely; they're in italics, which are
hard on the eyes, and since I knew the outcome I was more
interested in the present story. But it turns out, that
story hasn't ended.
I learned a great deal about cranberry farming and wet or
dry harvesting, the uses for the crop and so on. Author
Jolina Petersheim tells us that she researched the story in
person. And then I had to visualise the women workers with
white kaaps on their heads, hear the jingle of the horse
harness, the glug, and swish of water, feel the ache and
strain of shoulders working rakes and baskets for a long
day. After all that, the good folks have a party; in a barn,
scented with cedar, beeswax, and bread. For anyone who
enjoys a women's fiction story full of atmosphere, culture
contrast, and emotions, I can't think of a better book to
read than HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN. Just as, if someone had
suffered the kind of shattering loss described, I can't
think of many better places to retreat to while their heart
and soul mended.
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 Neufeldâ€™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 husbandâ€™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
sheâ€™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 isnâ€™t dead