Friday, January 25, 2019

How the Light Gets in by Jolina Petersheim - #review

Hardcover: 400 Pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 5, 2019)

“Compellingly woven by Jolina Petersheim’s capable pen, How the Light Gets In follows a trail of grief toward healing, leading to an impossible choice–what is best when every path will hurt someone?” –Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

From the highly acclaimed author of The Outcast and The Alliance comes an engrossing novel about marriage and motherhood, loss and moving on.

When Ruth Neufeld’s husband and father-in-law are killed working for a relief organization overseas, she travels to Wisconsin with her young daughters and mother-in-law Mabel to bury her husband. She hopes the Mennonite community will be a quiet place to grieve and piece together next steps.

Ruth and her family are welcomed by Elam, her husband’s cousin, who invites them to stay at his cranberry farm through the harvest. Sifting through fields of berries and memories of a marriage that was broken long before her husband died, Ruth finds solace in the beauty of the land and healing through hard work and budding friendship. She also encounters the possibility of new love with Elam, whose gentle encouragement awakens hopes and dreams she thought she’d lost forever. But an unexpected twist threatens to unseat the happy ending Ruth is about to write for herself. On the precipice of a fresh start and a new marriage, Ruth must make an impossible decision: which path to choose if her husband isn’t dead after all.



I know there's a lot of Amish fiction about, but you don't see too much Mennonite fiction, and since we have a congregation just down the road, I was already interested even before I opened the book.

I had a lot of empathy for Ruth.  Her marriage had been on the back burner of things due to her husband's career and her involvement with the two small children at home alone most of the time, the couple kind of drifted away from each other.  I think many of us can relate to that; marriage takes work, that's for sure.

Then her husband is killed in a hospital bombing overseas, and Ruth is left to pick up the pieces for herself and her two young daughters.  It would be tough to be surrounded by your deceased spouse's family and around none of your own - and I understand that as well.

It was nice to see Ruth and Mabel, her mother-in-law, draw closer to each other after the tragedy. Often the MIL relationship is contentious, but I liked how Ms. Petersheim bucked that trend. 

And most people, outside of soap operas and similar shows, wouldn't get hot and heavy with their deceased spouse's cousin so quickly after the funeral.  Well, Ruth and Elam didn't either, and I thought their awkward attempts at trying to talk themselves out of this growing attraction, being so soon after the burial was particularly well handled.

There was a twist toward the end that endangered Ruth and Elam's HEA, and I felt the tiniest bit deflated, but quickly recovered.  I had had no inkling whatsoever that things would turn out the way they did...and that's a good thing!

How the Light Gets In is a fresh and witty clean romantic suspense that will draw you into a little town in Wisconsin.  I remember finishing the book shortly after 6:30 am one morning, closing it, and had myself a good cry.



Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s fifth novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.


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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher(s) via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)


  1. Your last line brought tears to my own eyes. Thank you for sharing your review, LuAnn.

  2. Hi, LuAnn! I love your review so much, I created a meme from one of your quotes. Could you please contact me at to give permission to share it? Thank you! :)