In Beyond the Shadows by Robin Lee Hatcher, Deborah Haskins’ husband has just died in a farming accident, leaving her a young widow alone on a 40 acre farm. Unbeknownst to her, her husband Andy had offered his old Korean war buddy, Gideon Clermont, a job on the farm, and Gideon happens to arrive the day of Andy’s funeral. Gideon finds another job but wants to help Deborah out by volunteering his services at the farm on Saturdays.
Both Gideon and Deborah are Christians but not in close fellowship with the Lord. After several months they fall in love and elope. Some time later Deborah experiences a renewal of her faith, but Gideon is aloof spiritually. It takes a long while for Deborah to realize that Gideon has a drinking problem, and then longer to acknowledge that he is a full-blown alcoholic.
As the daughter of an alcoholic myself, I felt the actions and emotions of the characters rang true. Experience with alcoholism with a member of Robin’s family lends an authenticity to the story.
One of the things I most appreciated about this book was the realistic use of Scripture and Scriptural principles. Some Christian authors today seem to think they have to veil, to downplay, or to merely suggest spiritual truth, but it should be a normal part of a Christian’s life to read and be instructed and convicted by God’s Word. The book is not preachy at all, but the characters do grapple realistically with God’s Word and its claims on them.
In one instance, Deborah has come across the verse “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel” in Malachi 2:16a. At first it seems like a promise that her marriage will be salvaged, but as Gideon’s initial denials that he has a problem turn into multiple relapses despite promises to quit all chisel away at Deborah’s love for him, the verse begins to feel more like a prison sentence. It reminded me of a quote from Jane Eyre: “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor.”
And I also thought it was quite realistic that once both Deborah and Gideon came to a place of surrender and decision, it still wasn’t easy and they still had their ups and downs.
For all of that, though, the book is not dreary and gloomy. It’s meant as a story of hope.
The book is mostly told through Deborah’s voice, but there are occasional paragraphs of various other characters’ viewpoints.
I listened to it via audiobook and it was quite well done. It appears to be out of print right now, but used copies are available and it is also available for the Kindle and the Nook as well as audiobook. There is an interesting interview with Robin from a few years back that covers this book as well as other information.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)