Sometimes a Light Surprises by Jamie Langston Turner is primarily the story of Ben Buckley, whose wife died in a mysterious unsolved murder twenty years earlier. Shortly before her death she spoke of a “conversion” experience. Ben had no use for her new-found faith and let her know that clearly. Since her death he has built walls around his heart, shutting out his own four children, and has become immersed in his own rituals, including an obsession with idioms and trivia.
A job interview at his business unexpectedly brings him face to face with Kelly Kovatch, with the daughter of the woman who led his wife to the Lord, the woman against whom he still holds a grudge. With that against her plus the fact that the girl is only twenty, home-schooled, and inexperienced, he has no intention of hiring her, but somehow he finds himself doing just that.
Kelly’s mother is now dying of cancer, and she is wrestling with why God doesn’t seem to be answering her family’s prayers as well as how to interact with all the different types of people and situations she encounters in her new job.
The story is told through the alternating viewpoints of Ben, Kelly, Ben’s personal assistant Caroline, who is a resident busybody, and Erin, one of Ben’s daughters who is most estranged from him.
This is not a book of riveting action or page-turning plot, yet the characters are genuine in their reactions, thought processes, and flaws. Sometimes Turner’s main characters are a bit too eccentric for me, but all of the ones in this book seem real and likable even with their quirks.
Though this is not a sequel of Turner’s previous books, a few characters from them make an appearance.
The title of the book is from a newly discovered (by me, anyway) old hymn by William Cowper which has now become a favorite, and I enjoyed the references throughout the book of the slow dawning of light. The book is set in a city where I used to live, so I also enjoyed some familiar references. I also liked the ending, which, of course, I can’t tell you, but I liked how it wasn’t neatly tied up the way Christian fiction often is, yet the characters are responding to the light they have.
I think this is my favorite of Turner’s books.
(This post will be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)