Hold the Light (2017) by April McGowan is a stand-alone novel that recently released on August 15, 2017. This book comes in all forms including eBook, and is 300 pages in length. With a full-time job and a rambunctious five-year old at home, this novel took me two days to read. I received a review copy of this novel from WhiteFire Publishing. In no way has this influenced my opinions of the story. All opinions expressed in this review are mine. I give this phenomenal novel 5+ STARS. This novel is a Contemporary Christian novel with slight Romance tendencies.
About the Book
To an artist, the light is everything. So what is Amber supposed to do when facing blindness?
Amber spent her life adapting first to being abandoned by her birth mother as a toddler, and then to the death of her adoptive father in her teen years. Now she’s moved past all that, loving life as an independent woman: she has a job as an art instructor and the perfect apartment.
But when a routine eye appointment reveals she’s losing her sight, life comes to a halt. Pressures come at her from all sides. Her mother, her boss, her boyfriend and her closest friend, Shannon, all have ideas about what’s best for her.
Even after her blindness counselor, Ethan, befriends her and opens her eyes to new opportunities and the possibility of a deeper relationship, one haunting question remains: How could the God she loved all her life turn everything upside down again?
This book may be one of the best stories I have read this year! Actually, this may be one of the best stories I have ever read!!! I absolutely love this novel. The story line grabbed my attention because I personally suffer from serious vision impairment, an issue which began when I was five years old. The notion that I could go blind in my future isn’t far fetched, and it scares me a little. I was intrigued by not only the blindness aspect, but by the fact that the main character, Amber, is a painter by trade. WHOA! How is this all going to play out!? How will she be able to do what she loves if she is blind?!
The characters are beautifully written and come off as being exceptionally genuine and realistic. The main cast includes Amber, Shannon, and Ethan. Amber and Shannon are best friends who grew up together. Both were in the foster system as youngsters. Amber was adopted, but Shannon was not. Of course, both young women have some baggage from their tumultuous childhoods. Because they have been through so much together, Amber and Shannon are exceptionally close. They’re the type of best friends who can finish each other’s sentences and know immediately when something is up. So, when Amber receives her diagnosis, Shannon is right there to help her out. She is even there in the moments when Amber needs removal from her pity party, and isn’t afraid to tell Amber the truth. The pain, the frustrations, the anger, the support shown, the apologies given when a bad mood strikes, all of this is so well written and so realistic that Amber and Shannon remind me of my best friend and how we act and talk and help each other through our tough spots. I loved relating to these two characters.
Ethan is the swoon-worthy blindness counselor assigned to Amber at the beginning of this book. He is kind, compassionate, and seriously patient. There are a couple of moments in the story where Amber takes her anger and frustration out on Ethan, but instead of blowing up at her, he takes it in stride. Ethan has a serious struggle in this story, too, but he puts himself on the back burner to help Amber through her brand-new trials. What I really love about Amber and Ethan’s friendship is that it progresses naturally, even through the few bumps along the way. Over the course of the story, Amber and Ethan share some serious life struggles, deal with them as humans do with all their complexities and foibles, and then move to a place of hope. I definitely rooted for them from their first encounter.
I absolutely love and appreciate how grief and loss are dealt with in this book. Amber is totally angered by her diagnosis. Who wouldn’t be?! She’s also fearful and petulant, and she takes her anger and grief out on others. Is it childish? Is it wrong? Yes, but it’s human. We lash out at God and our loved ones because it’s safe to do so. God and our loved ones will typically forgive us and understand the hardships we are going through. And, as Amber comes to terms with the new path her life is going to take, she begrudgingly comes to terms with it. She does get back on track with her relationship with God and her family members. And she grows into a better, stronger woman. My biggest take away from this novel is its message of hope. Life throws hard things at us all the time. Sometimes, it is too much. Sometimes, it is too overwhelming. BUT, there is hope. Hope for better. Hope for understanding. Hope for a budding new romance. And, there is always the assurance that God will never leave us; He will be there to help us through the mess of life.
There is SO much more to talk about with this book, but I don’t want to chance a spoiler. So, I will end with a little praise for April McGowan. Ms. McGowan, Hold the Light left me feeling amazing! This story reminded me that when I do life with God, I can overcome anything, even the scary things that may be lurking in my future. God bless your amazing talent, and I pray that He guides you through many, many more future stories!
Hold the Light on AMAZON
Hold the Light on BARNES & NOBLE
About the Author + An Interview!!!
April McGowan loves to write healing fiction. She and her husband, two children, and her mews, Spookers, live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, reading down her book list, homeschooling her two children, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen!
An Interview with April McGowan
Just by chance, I caught a Facebook post of April’s showcasing her latest novel, Hold the Light. We commented back and forth a couple of times about her novel. I asked if she would be willing to answer a few interview questions for me, and she graciously said, “YES!” I hope you will enjoy reading through her responses as much as I did! Thank you, April, for taking time out of your busy schedule to respond to my questions.
The premise behind Hold the Light captured my interest immediately. I suffer from vision issues myself, so this subject hits real close to home. What inspired you to write Amber’s story?
I suffer from a debilitating chronic illness called Common Variable Immunodeficiency wherein I don’t make antibodies and can’t fight off colds or infections. I’ve always wanted to write about the grieving process of adapting to that—but in a way that would connect to a wider population. I chose a rare eye disease (my immune disease is rare) that had the possibility to connect with readers on a personal level. I think most people have worried about or wondered what it might be like to lose their sight. Then I poured out my own steps in the process into Amber’s process (although the rest of her story is completely fictionalized). It was very cathartic and personal and still brings me to tears. God was so good to hold my hand through it all.
While writing Hold the Light, did you run into any snags? If so, what did you do to overcome the snag?
YES. It’s the same snag that gets me in every book. My illness. I have spent weeks down sick or struggling with fatigue between writing chapters, and that is disheartening at times. I spend a lot of time in prayer asking if He thinks I’m ever going to finish this story, or if it’s my last one. I’ve got two more in progress now…and I still ask. By the Grace of God, I’ll finish them.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Why?
I really love it all. Conception, when the baby idea is roaming around in my imagination. Character development as I get to know my story people. Gentle plotting. I’m what they call a “pantster” by nature, writing by the seat of my pants — while I don’t have a hard plot, I do have a direction I want to take the story and the character arc. Sometimes the characters and story direction don’t exactly behave! Then fleshing out the story — I tend to write tight to get the story on the page, and go back and add depth to scenes. And finally, the editing process. I liken it to adding and subtracting to a sculpture, softening hard lines and creating fine details. Precious moments are born from the process.
How do you balance all the hats you wear everyday?
Prayerfully and carefully. I’m a wife, a homeschooling mom, the publicity coordinator for Oregon Christian Writers, and a writer. It’s a lot to take on—and I can’t do all of it every day. I must choose and be careful about the tasks I approach, understanding I might not get to some (or any) due to unforeseen health interruptions. It’s a dance I do daily. And sometimes, not too gracefully.
If you could meet any author — past or present — who would it be and why?
Do I have to choose only one? I never got to meet Ray Bradbury. His short stories really inspired me to write short stories. I didn’t end up writing science fiction, but it’s hiding in my psyche for sure. Also Mary Stewart. Her turn of phrase and places settings are incredible. And Rosamunde Pilcher for her romantic, rich view of small locales and the way she brought her past into present. I love that.