A Sad and Lovely Novel

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Cohen Marah, a middle-aged mortician, blames himself for a lot, from the break-up of his parents' marriage to the imminent death of his father. Light from Distant Stars takes him on a journey in a week. As his father lays dying and his sister is painfully close to bringing new life into the world, Cohen of course has a lot of memories and unresolved issues to think about.

Shawn Smucker's characterizations are well-drawn, and his writing is simply beautiful. Chapters alternate between Cohen's present and his past, specifically his childhood and adolescence. It's clear that Cohen doesn't feel welcome in his own family; the reasons why will become clear soon enough. Once the reader gets used to the structure of the novel, it becomes easy to understand where the action is and who is involved.

Christian faith plays a heavy role in this novel. Again, this befits the situation. However, the publisher, Revell, is a subsidiary of Baker, an Evangelical publishing concern. While conservatism and Evangelicalism are not really part of the novel, some readers may find it uncomfortably preachy. Others may find it appropriate and comforting. This is truly one of those situations where a reader's mileage may vary. Because the main character and his father are morticians, elements of their trade are described. They aren't gratuitous, but they are a bit graphic.

Shawn Smucker has written young adult novels. This is his first adult novel. I suspect it won't be his last.

Thanks to BookishFirst for providing a free ARC (which arrived in my mailbox late!) in exchange for a fair and honest review.