Amber discovers she has a progressive form of macular degeneration that will cause her to go blind rather rapidly. In this recent Christian fiction book release, April McGowan takes readers on a journey with Amber through the massive changes she is experiencing, as well as her emotionally charged reactions to them. When Amber is diagnosed, she goes through both emotional and physical changes, and the reader travels with her through her triumphs and struggles. I found many parts of this book equally intriguing and frustrating, but I did learn quite a bit about a subject that I have not read about before in fiction.
There are many themes throughout this novel that give it depth. One is Amber’s lifelong feeling of abandonment from her birth mother because she believes she was unwanted. Her adoptive mother is not the type of mom that Amber feels close with, but the progression of their relationship throughout the novel is very meaningful and readers will be able to identify with it, even if they themselves have not been adopted. We all long for acceptance and the feeling of being wanted, and Amber’s journey of understanding is relatable.
A Bad Guy
The most frustrating part of the story for me is Amber’s relationship with Kyle. He seemed more of a caricature of a person than a real person. I really doubted Amber’s judgment when she kept trusting him over and over despite gigantic red flags she experiences, those brought to light by everyone who cares about her, and his horrible behavior. I think the author could have done a better job making his character a bit more sneakily frightening than as over the top as he was. It rang untrue to me when no one could see how scary he was being. I get denial by Amber (abusive behavior is often difficult to acknowledge by those experiencing it) , but I don’t get denial by everyone around her for so long.
A Devastating Disease
Amber’s reaction to her disease and the changes she experiences make this entire book a worthwhile read. I kept imagining how I would feel in her situation. I had extremely poor vision (close to legally blind without correction) until a few years ago when I had corrective surgery, so I have a tiny glimmer of how scary and out of control a person can feel when they can’t judge their surroundings, know where the door is, or navigate the room. At first I couldn’t understand why she was so mean to everyone who was trying to help her, why she couldn’t just accept the diagnosis so she could learn how to adapt and move on. Yet as the book progressed, I was able to see how Amber’s reactions would be so completely normal for this devastating diagnosis. Learning to deal with it would be a step by step process with two steps forward, one step back, and a gradual motion rather than a giant leap.
What’s on Your “Must See” Bucket list?
The part of this story that is quite thought provoking is that Amber creates a “must see” list of things she wants to see and experience for herself before she completely loses her vision. It made me think about the places and things I would want to see if I knew I wouldn’t be able to see anything ever again. The way this entire part of the storyline plays out is both heartbreaking and so realistic, it will definitely stick with me and everyone who chooses to read this book.
The Importance of Friendship
Friendships are another huge theme in Hold the Light, and Amber’s friend Shannon is the type of friend I’d like to have. The type of faith Shannon has is contrasted with the type of faith Kyle portrays and it’s clear to see (pun intended) which one is the deeper, more true faith in the end. Ethan, Amber’s blindness counselor, is wrestling with his own troubles, but his friendship with Amber is transparent, his kindness speaks volumes when Amber is struggling to accept what she is going through. The progression of their relationship is realistic and very true to life (unlike the other relationship).
Overall this book overcomes its shortcomings with an original storyline that readers will be able to relate to in themes, if not in content. You may not experience progressive blindness or even know anyone who has, but the themes of friendship, overcoming adversity, and accepting difficulties will apply to any reader.
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