Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Review: "Sometimes a Light Surprises" by Jamie Langston Turner

Several weeks before her mysterious death, Ben Buckley's wife met a woman who "turned her on to religion"---radically interrupting their happy marriage. Angry for how he treated her, Ben now hides behind walls of grief, broken relationships, and rigid routine. But when two unlikely people enter his narrow world, will he let down his guard?

This is a book about family. It's a story that you can't read fast, you have to let it sink in slowly. For readers familiar with Turner's previous works, the setting returns to Derby, South Carolina where folks in the town like to take things slow and easy. This time we're introduced to Ben, a widower who's never gotten over the unsolved murder of his wife. Due to his unresolved feelings, his relationships with his children have severely declined over the years. It's sad to see how a simple act can change the course of a person's personality and communication for the rest of their lives. I thought it was extremely interesting to read about Ben's relationship to the Kovatch family. I felt that Ben's reaction to the strict conservativeness of the Kovatch family to be quite spot on. It may be playing on stereotypes or pre-judgments but I think many people feel this way about people who act like the family and that would probably have been what they were thinking as well. Throughout the book we learn about Ben's family and the Kovatch family as well as Ben's assistant Caroline and her family. Each of these families is going through situations that that test how they act as a unit and the circumstances that cause them to be this way.

Even though I liked the book, there was something about it that was a bit off. Normally I'm a huge fan of Turner's books. Even though they are a slow read, usually the story just unravels gently and wraps you in. This time however, I never really felt like I could get into the story. It just never grabbed me like the other books had done. I couldn't connect to any of the characters, in fact they all seemed like they were keeping an arm's length away from me. A slight disappointment was the lack of characters from the other books, that usually tie them all together. I think there was a brief cameo of a past character, but it didn't feel like it was enough. I also felt that the mystery was never tied up, it was just left hanging. I understand why this would be the case, but it just very unsatisfying to have so much effort going into it and not have a final outcome. Overall I would have to say this probably was not one of my favorite books by Turner. It's a good read but it just didn't really warm up to me. I'm hoping that there will be another book featuring these characters because I feel that there is more to the story that needs to be told.

Sometimes a Light Surprises by Jamie Langston Turner is published by Bethany House (2009)

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