Light from Distant Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Shawn Smucker is a wonderful storyteller. He had me hooked after the very first sentence when he introduces a scene in which our lead character, Cohen, steps over his father's dead body and walks out into the world as if nothing happened. We spend what feels like the rest of the book inside Cohen's mind, replaying old events, only we don't really know what is true and what isn't. It's this unreliable narration that made it hard for me to connect with the character, or any of the characters for that matter. This was an entertaining story and makes me want to read more from this author because I so enjoyed his writing style. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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Light From Distant Stars was a bit of a disappointment for me. The cover is beautiful and the blurb sounded intriguing, but the story wasn't for me. When I opened the book I was so excited and the first chapter was amazing...but as I continued to read it because more and more confusing.

The story switched from current events to his memories of the past and, I've just got to say, I did not understand some of the things that happened. What was that beast? Was it real? I also didn't like the supernatural elements.

All in all, there really wasn't anything I loved about this book and that makes me sad. I've read other reviews and it seems like most people love this story, so please give it a shot if it sounds like something for you.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I've done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*
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When Cohen Marah steps over his father's body in the basement embalming room of the family's funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory.

Over the next week, Cohen's childhood comes back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his parents' separation. The accident Cohen witnessed and the traumatic images he couldn't unsee. And the two children in the forest who became his friends--and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he's been avoiding: Is he responsible for his father's death?

In Shawn Smucker captivating style, he weaves together a fascinating tale of forgiveness, reconciliation and hope even in the darkest time. I really enjoyed this story of real and broken people. It was a book that I quite enjoyed this book. I love how he weaves in some mystical and super natural elements with some of the very real and timely events. If you are a fan of authors like Billy Coffey and Ted Dekker, you will likely enjoy this book too.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
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The story opens up with Cohen looking over his father’s body on the floor in a huge puddle of blood. Cohen and his sister Kaye worked with his father. Cohen’s sister Kaye was having twins – due any time. The father was a fallen preacher who ended up running a funeral home. The story starts out in current time and then switches to when he was a child and his father was a preacher. 

Cohen remembers fond memories with his father and him playing baseball. Then there were other disturbing memories of him finding his father in a compromising situation. Then his experiences with the unhealthy relationship his mother and father had which spilled over to an abusive relationship with their kids. This was a dark story with a religious angle to it that was strange (almost Stephen Kings “Carrie” strange).

I didn’t connect with any of the characters nor their situations. I wasn’t fond of the father/mother and what kind of church they lead either. I was confused as to the story line and where it was going as the author switched from present to past and back again. I often wasn’t sure right away what timeline I was in which made for a choppy reading experience.  I did read this book until the end to see how it ended. Things went from bad to worse at the end. It was an unimaginable ending I didn’t see coming. It was good writing; this author has a vivid imagination which made it harder to read because parts were pretty spooky. I don’t normally read this type of book. Its a different kind of reading experience, one I did not enjoy. This story is dark, eerie, sad, heart wrenching and gritty. The events mentioned in this story are of an affair, murder, confessions with a priest, descriptions of a beast, unhealthy church situations and an active shooter. If you are into dark stories you will enjoy this tale.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog 
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This  book  encouraged me to seek God’s  purposes for my life  to go anow find what I'm called to do. It was a distinct reminder of family  and what  that actually means to me. I was reminded  that this looks different for different people.
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I know that many readers will love this book, as I I think the author is extremely talented.  But quite honestly, this book was not for me.  I should have read a little bit more about the book before I requested it.  This is not the author’s fault.  So please, give it a try yourself—you may love it.  
I’m giving it a four star rating for the author’s obvious talent.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
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Light from the Distant Stars is a roller coaster that you cannot even fathom where the next turn will take you. You think the book will go one direction, because its first pages start out like the beginning of a crime scene detective television show. Instead you find yourself on a journey through the course of a man’s memories as he battles against his pain, his questions, and the dark. It is a reminder that though the Light is complicated, it cannot be outshone by the darkness.
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Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker

Cohen is trying to figure out why his dad is lying in a puddle of blood in the basement of the family funeral home.  Did he kill his father?  While he tries to answer that question, the reader goes on flashbacks of Cohen’s early family life to determine how they arrived at this point.

This book probes the father-son relationship that seems to be prevalent in our culture.  “Maybe that’s the problem with fathers and sons—they lose each other. . . Everyone loses their dad.  It doesn’t matter if you want to or not.  It’s finding him again that’s the hard part.  I don’t know if that happens very much.”  Cohen counsels Thatcher, a troubled teen he meets in the hospital.

This book is part fiction, part philosophy, part supernatural-thriller and part coming of age novel.  The Aauthor was new to me, but this book made me curious to try his other books.

It was well-written and the plot moved along at a decent pace, but I didn’t find a character that resonated with me.  I definitely felt like I was an outsider looking in, trying to figure out what was happening.

I was happy with the resolution of the book.  It does offer hope and doesn’t strand readers in a dark place.
Readers who enjoy Billy Coffey, or Ted Dekker, may find much to like in this book.  I am grateful to  the publisher for the free copy I received for this, my honest review.
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Light From Distant Stars
Shawn Smucker

Thank you Revell publishing for the review copy provided through NetGalley. 

Premise: As Cohen’s father wrestles imminent death after a severe injury, Cohen begins to reflect back on some of the most haunting memories of his childhood as he struggles to come to terms with old resentments he’s held against his dad after all of these years.

This story started out strong but I suppose they often do. Unfortunately, the spark of suspense the author initially ignited fizzled out for a good portion of the story. The first half was mainly family drama and there wasn’t anything particularly unique or shocking within that drama. 

My biggest disappointment was that the synopsis notes that Cohen is the primary suspect in his dad’s death. This, as well as the beginning of the book, are very misleading. I thought I was entering into something much different. There was barely any focus on Cohen’s involvement in his father’s life-threatening injury and the investigation surrounding the incident was an incredibly muted part of the story.

The book eventually took a rather unexpected turn, at least when reflecting on childhood memories, and it created slight intrigue for me. Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep me actively engaged for the first half. I felt it began to get more interesting around the 60% mark, which was a relief as I kept pushing myself along. Another unforeseen twist closer to the end also created a more satisfying read. The author redeemed the tale a bit as it reached its momentum building conclusion. 

Additionally, the author’s vivid descriptions, haunting phrases, and lovely, poetic flow did help pull me through some of the slower, less engaging parts. 

But I must note that I feel a certain responsibility was dodged in never properly offering closure in how the book began. I feel like the author wanted to tell a much different story than the one he started with, which is fine, but I feel there was a level of deception with the beginning’s pull. I don’t think that’s a fair path to lay out for the reader. I felt it was one of many pieces in the book that lacked proper development and I found that to be incredibly frustrating.

I liked Smucker’s book and I think that if you enter in with the right expectations, you might enjoy it more than I did.
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I wasn't sure what to expect, as this was my first time reading something from Shawn Smucker, but I had heard good things about the book and was intrigued by the cover. There are essentially two storylines going on the entire time, back and forth from chapter to chapter. Although there's a rhythm, it's a bit disorienting. The entire storyline feels like you're inside the main character's head as he lives in the moment and reflects on the past - and yet the reader must agree to believe in things without shape or form, things that even the reader knows are not real. While the writing is good and the descriptions great, some characters felt underdeveloped (Ava, his mother, etc) and multiple storylines never wrap up. You'll have to suspend disbelief for this one, that's for sure, but I read to the end not only hoping Smucker would tie up at least a few loose strings (of which there are many) but because the writing itself pulled me in.
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The book opens on the main character, Cohen, finding his father dead in the basement of the funeral home where Cohen works with his father. In the ensuing difficulties that come from such an event, Cohen finds himself beset with memories of his childhood and adolescent, split definitively by an event that basically destroyed his family. The story seems to a bit of an examination of father-son relationships.

As you can see by my rating, I did not care for this book. For one thing, I was expecting more of an investigation into how the father died than was presented, especially considering that most  summaries I read ended with, "Did he kill his father?" As it turns out, it was more introspection and reminiscing.

Even as I started to realize that this book was more drama than mystery, it still presented me with little of interest. There are two threads followed--Cohen in present time dealing with what happened to his father (I won't spoil it, but there's something in the summary that is very misleading in this regard, and maybe I'm the only one, but I felt a bit lied to) and his memories of significant events of his past. The present-time storyline is fairly uneventful, filled with light conversations with his pregnant sister, confessions to a retired priest, and then sudden action near the end of the book that I didn't really understand the point of. The past-time storyline has a lot more going on, though it drags a bit here and there too.

There are 2 more significant events in his past, one of which led to the split that broke up his family, and the other of which comes across as a supernatural element, which is maybe a bit confusing in this book. After some time, I came to suspect what was really going on, and turned out to be correct. However, it is severely lacking in explanation--not about how this supernatural memory came to be, but about how it actually made sense even in context.

Building from that, because of the supernatural element, as well as a particular scene in the present-day storyline, I had a very difficult time knowing what was real later in the book, and I am not sure that was meant to be the case. It led me to be fairly unimpressed by the sort-of twisty action scene that happened near the end. Also, there was one huge plot thread just left hanging...something that happened during Cohen's adolescence that came to light near the end that should have had repercussions, and instead, somehow just became a catalyst for Cohen's realization (or reminder) that his father was not quite how he'd always seen him.

I wanted to like this book. I read a couple of reviews by others that were glowing, and the premise sounded interesting. However, by the time I was 75% through, I felt like nothing had happened, and I just wasn't getting the point of it. There is also quite a bit of description and figurative language, which bogged down the story for me. By the last half of the book, I had started to skim the descriptions, especially every time the narrator, whether a child, teenager, or adult, stared at the sky or the city. This happened often. It let me to wonder if there was some sort of symbolism I was simply missing.

Final thoughts: The book is labeled as Christian, though if I'd not seen that label on it, I never would have guessed it was meant to be Christian. The main character does visit a church and confess several times through the book, and there is a bit of a heart change near the end, but to me, it was fairly shallow. This book is simply not my taste, but for those who enjoy descriptive and figurative writing styles and drama and introspection, it may be a great read for you.
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Everything he hated stood there in front of him in the form of that darkness, and he sprinted toward it." 

Great writing style. 

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
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This story takes place over 6 days but covers years of Cohen’s life.  During the last 6 days of his fathers life, Cohen remembers much of his childhood.  He remembers things that he had forgotten about.  Everything that he remembers helps to lead him to being a better person.  I really enjoyed every bit of this story.  I received a copy of this book from Revell for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
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“Her hands gripped the back of the seat on either side of her chin, and she raised the fingers of one hand, only her fingers, in a sort of wave. They drifted in a sad rhythm like seaweed in a current.”

It is hard writing a review for a book that brings back difficult memories from my own past. Especially when the story is deeply introspective. There were times when whiffs of hospital chemicals still permeated my nostrils and I heard the machines rhythmic movements keeping my dad alive.  Given all that, by the ending words, I simply loved this unforgettable story.

Light from Distant Stars is a story that defies the genres of being a straight forward fiction book with a tinge of a fantasy element. The core element of this story kept me guessing until my suspicions were confirmed. The story skillfully weaves around the present and the past of Cohen, his dad, and the Beast. It is a foreboding story skillfully told where Cohen is dealing with the present-day while confronting his memories around his father.

Shawn Smucker has a way of crafting his stories with an alchemy of words that makes you feel every moment of a character’s world. In Light from Distant Stars, readers will understand that the monsters we often need to fear are the humankind not the monsters of make-believe.

This is a book that should be savored in large passages of time. I highly recommend this book if you love a good story about all facets of life changes. I can only hope that a future book will be in the works with Cohen and Thatcher.
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At first I could not get into this book, maybe too descriptive without knowing where it was going? I put it down and picked it up a week later and was able to get into it enough to want to know more. It is actually 2 stories in 1.

Cohen as a child and Cohen as an adult are the 2 main characters and the story is how they tie together.

Was it truly a beast that he saw as a child? Than and Hippie- who are they and why are they in his life or is he really a part of their lives, needed to help find and kill the beast?

Did Cohen have a hand in his father's death or was it an accident? Ava from his childhood is now a detective looking into the circumstances. In the end, I cared enough to finish the story and am glad I did.

Thank you NetGalley for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest opinion.
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This was my second book from Shawn Smucker, and I have to say it is a vast improvement over the first one! There are still some awkward things that I believe experience will work out (such as jumping from first person to third person narrative and back again), but they don't make the book un-readable, or un-enjoyable. 

I liked the storyline of the book, even though there isn't anything major driving the plot, such as a kidnapping or some cataclysmic event. It's just a story about a guy trying to work through an experience in his past that seems to collide with his present. 

I found it interesting how the author chose to portray the incident from the past, and I'm not really sure what to make of it after finishing the book, as it seems very science-fictionish. We don't get an explanation of how Cohen meets Than and Hippie (even after we understand what the beast really is) so there is definitely a supernatural element to this book. I can live without the explanation. 

What I don't understand is how Cohen came to choose a church that is completely different from what he grew up in to restore his faith. A little more info about his journey there would've been good. I mean, did he just want to go to confession? Did the author just want to use that as a metaphor throughout the story, or was there a meaningful reason for the change? Did other people know his mother wrote his father's sermons? 

These are questions that most other people probably don't care about, and I only think of them because I really like Cohen as a character and wonder things about those details of his life. 

If you are a person who likes religious fiction with a bit of supernatural thrown in, this book will interest you. I was so happy to see the leaps and bounds of improvement in writing from the first book by this author, and I would definitely read another.
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Light from Distant Stars will latch onto your heart like a magnet and take your emotions on a trip to infinity and back.  I will remember this story by Shawn Smucker for the rest of my life.  Maybe longer.

If you’ve ever lost someone very close to you, such as a parent, then you already know there’s a place in your heart that just aches.  It may lessen in time, but it never really goes away.  That’s the place this story touches!  Yet it does it in an utterly subtle and tender way.  I’m not sure if that’s what Shawn Smucker intended, but there it is.

For the record, this is not a story about outer space.  The title has to do with our young protagonist’s astonishment at the concept of a light year: the amount of time it takes light to travel in the time span of one year.  He learns that some of the stars we see in the sky are from planets that have died,  but because they’re so far away, we still see the light.  If you don’t know, a light year is almost six trillion miles.  

**How Light from Distant Stars Rolls**

The story surrounds Cohen, our protagonist, a middle-aged man who works in a local funeral home.  As the story opens, something tragic just happened to Cohen’s father.  We don’t know if it’s an accident or something more sinister.

Cohen begins reflecting back to earlier times, and the man his father used to be.  Through flashback segments, we discover how Cohen and his father became the people they are today.

After his unconscious father is admitted to the hospital, we hear that the prognosis is not good.  Nothing more can be done for him.  Although Cohen spends most of his time at his father’s bedside, he begins making daily trips to a church a few blocks away.  He has a need to confess his sins - daily.  He is shrouded in guilt.  Why?

I do not want to reveal any more of the plot, but I will say that Smucker did an excellent job of tackling some harsh subjects.  This was a very dysfunctional family!

**Technically Speaking**

I’m at a loss on how to communicate to you just how wonderful this story is.  When I first started reading, it seemed good,  but not anything special.  However, then Smucker turns the key on the emotion generators, and you’re just . . . transfixed, for lack of a better word.

One thing that this author does better than most is description.  His description is smooth!  Here’s an example:  “She let go of his hand, not in the way you drop something but in the way a boat drifts from the dock.”  Shawn Smucker continually lulls us with his words.  He makes it easy for us to feel the emotions.

The pacing was right on the money.  It’s not fast, but it’s constant.  As such, we begin to formulate an opinion on what really happened.  When the climax arrives, regardless of whether your opinion was correct, you just feel a sense of peace.  I did.  I don’t really know why, but it was very profound.

My mother passed away about 18 months ago.  During the last ten days of her life, I kept vigil by her bedside.  I felt many of the same emotions as Cohen did.  There was love, there was guilt, there was futility.

This story touched me on a very deep level.  I can’t recommend it enough.
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Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker is more than a tale of a grown man coming to terms with events from his childhood and his rocky relationship with his father, all with a hefty dose of Christianity. Cohen Marah's adolescence consisted of baseball and lying under the pew each Sunday listening to his father's sermon, but a spontaneous decision based on jealousy and confusion sets life-altering changes in motion for both Cohen and his family.

The overall story seamlessly flows between Cohen's present at age 40 and his past when his childhood took a heart-wrenching turn. In the present, Cohen confronts his feelings of responsibility for his father's impending death through the sacramental act of reconciliation and through the swirling memories of when his family splintered beyond repair. Shawn Smucker profoundly presents a story that on the surface is about a son remembering his childhood and a far-fetched, mystical memory of  when he meets two children and together they confront an unknown Beast. But on a deeper level, this story reveals universal truths about family, childhood, and relationships. Families are never perfect, parents are fallible, and children sometimes become confused between reality and fantasy as a form of self-preservation.

What is this Beast from Cohen's past? While that mystery is eventually revealed, the symbolism of the Beast gives this story an interesting depth. What if the Beast represents the struggle of adolescence and the coming of age in a household that is anything but stable? Or perhaps the Beast represents betrayal and the inability to forgive oneself and others. Maybe the Beast is a stand in for loneliness or sadness when a child must navigate into adulthood alone. Parents who hurt their children are also Beasts. Each reader will see this frightening shadow differently, and that is what makes this novel so fantastic.

Light from Distant Stars explores many emotions and often travels down dark and threatening paths, both real and imaginary. Just as the light is forever linked to its distant star, so is our past forever linked to our present as we traverse through life. The hospital is an interesting setting as Cohen and his sister, Kaye, who is pregnant with twins, watch their father's life slowly slip away. Death and life are engaged in a slow and heartbreaking dance here, and the author beautifully presents the two with dignity and wonder, mixed with a little bit of terror.

Shawn Smucker's writing is excellent, and he skillfully paints characters, scenes, emotions, and actions with a tantalizing literary brush. His ability to combine drama, horror, and magical realism and still maintain an air of credibility firmly positions him high on the list of authors to follow, to read, and to wait anxiously for that next book.
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I’m not exactly sure what the novel “Light From Distant Stars” by Shawn Smucker was about.  I read almost half of the book but just could not keep my interest in reading to the end.  Cohen Marah is an undertaker’s son who has just discovered the body of his father in the funeral home.  For some reason, Cohen isn’t sure whether or not he killed his father.  He goes to the retired parish priest to confess to whatever, the priest absolves him and Cohen continues to doubt himself.  There is a touch of the supernatural about this story which I was never able to understand.  

I felt that this book was terribly disjointed and very hard to read, thus my stopping in the middle of the book.  I don’t think I am the right reading audience for this type of story as I’m sure by other reviews that it has been well received in the literary world.  My apologies.
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I'm going to say that the cover that really captivated me. It also made me want to read the book as I'm sure most of you can understand that. You could really get lost in that picture before you know it. Makes me appreciate good art. I was not disappointed to find what was inside. There were times I felt like I was in the twighlight zone lol!!
I love a book that captivates me from the beginning until the end!!
I can see why they call Shawn Smucker the master storyteller as he weaves past and present together in one man's feelings as he struggles with idea of his father being gone forever. 
Cohen is an interesting character and so was his dad. I could picture Cohen's dad standing up there preaching to his congregation.
Almost like the scene in Ray Steven's Mississippi Squirl revival song ans video lol!! This scene was a part of Cohen's past. 
I couldn't imagine him finding what he did!! I think I'd be in shock too!
Did he really do it or did someone else? 
Well, you will just have to read the story to find out!! 
Be prepared to burn some late night oil like I did!! You won't want to put this book down!!
I really like this new to me author and I would like to read more by him. 
I strongly recommend this book and my thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book. No compensations were received and all opinions are my own!!
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