Shades of Light

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

What is it that makes you want to read a book? For me, two big considerations are: who has written it and what is the subject of the book? I really wanted to read “Shades of Light” firstly because of the author, Sharon Garlough Brown. I have read the first book in another series she has written, “Sensible Shoes” which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also wanted to read it because of the content. The novel is about the main character, Wren’s, struggle with anxiety and depression.

Wren is a character many will relate to as she struggles to come to terms with and manage her anxiety and depression. In this novel, Wren takes a journey – one which is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Through her, the reader will learn to empathise and better understand someone who lives with an ongoing mental illness and will learn about the harm done by well-meaning Christians who tell the one who is suffering that they just need to pray more, or that their illness is a sign of their lack of faith or rooted in sin.

Wren needed love, acceptance and understanding which she received from two people in particular – her pastor, Hannah and her Dad’s Aunt Kit. 

By the end of the novel, Wren has grown closer in her relationship with God and is able to see that: “In the place she had not chosen, in the life she must continue to choose, she was known, loved, seen and held. In all the wreckage, in every stranding, there was One who would not forsake or abandon her. No matter what. That was her hope, her testimony, her vision, her consolation.”

Another character I particularly related to was Wren’s Mother, Jamie. Jamie longs to be able to do something to help her daughter, to ease her pain, to fix her, but there is nothing she can do to make things better or easier for her daughter. As a Mum I get this, I want to be the one who is able to make things right for my children, to be the answer to their problems. But I know I can’t do this. Jamie has to deal with her own guilt and shame, feeling that she should have done things differently, that she’s to blame, and all the ‘what if’s’. Like Wren, Jamie has her own journey to make. 

I was blessed and encouraged as I read this book, and God used it to speak to me and take me further on my own journey of faith and dependence on him. But to say I enjoyed it is not quite the right word for me. Mental illness is not an easy subject to address and this book can be hard reading at times, however, it was a book I wanted to keep reading because it is so well-written and throughout is the message that God is with us in our pain and that in him we can find hope despite what we may be going through. So I am glad I read it as I consider it to be a special book with an important message. For all the reasons mentioned above, it is a book I would recommend to anyone, those who struggle with mental illness, those who have a loved one who is suffering and those who want to better understand others who are suffering so they can offer them love, acceptance and understanding.
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The book Shades of Light tells the story of Wren, a young woman who struggles with intense mental illness. It begins after she has admitted herself into a psychiatric hospital and continues to describe the aftermath of a severe episode. The book often switches from the perspective of Wren and her mother, who, along with others attempts to help Wren deal with her mental illness while dealing with the emotional challenges of being caregivers. I found this to be an intense book, especially with the realism that it includes about the feelings and experiences of Wren and others. I also found it to be an honest depiction of both mental illness and the challenges that Christians have faced in supporting those with mental illnesses. At the same time, there were a couple of times I felt the book was a bit preachy, although with good reason in challenges how some Christians have viewed mental illness. I also felt that the third act seemed somewhat rushed. Overall, though, it was a great book, and one I highly recommend for Christians and people with a mental illness or a loved one with mental illness as a reminder of hope.
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Rating (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being excellent)
Quality of writing: 5
Pace: 5
Plot development: 5
Characters: 5
Enjoyability: 5
Ease of Reading: 5

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
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Every once in a while you read a book that hits so close to home that you can't actually finish it. As a woman who struggles with anxiety and currently takes medication for panic attacks, this book was difficult to read in a good way. I couldn't finish it without triggering my own battles. I appreciate how Sharon writes about the most common misperceptions about mental health and illness within the church by writing a fictionalized story of Wren, a beautiful girl struggling with her own thoughts when prayer isn't enough. I recommend it to anyone seeking help or wanting to know how to help those who are suffering.
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This book was written by Sharon Garlough Brown, who also authored the award winning Sensible Shoes series. I loved everything about those books, especially the authenticity, the deep relationships forged between characters, and the spiritual depth and awareness with which the author wrote. I was extremely excited to read another book by this author. 

I applaud the author for examining the very difficult, heavy topic of mental illness. It’s certainly a topic we need to discuss more often. I believe that almost everyone has experienced, will experience, or knows someone who has experienced depression, anxiety, or mental illness at least once in their lives, meaning this book is pertinent for everyone to read.

I have suffered through times of depression and anxiety, as have many of my family members. I am always willing to talk about my experience in hopes that others won’t feel ashamed of their need for help or medication. There are some people in Christian circles, as this book briefly addresses, that would tell sufferers that they just need to have more faith and then they could be healed, or that taking medication means you are not trusting God for healing. That’s baloney. I believe Jesus can and does heal. I’m also taking medication. Medication is an answer to prayer and an avenue for healing.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I will summarize it briefly. Wren, a young single woman, a social worker, cares for people deeply. She finds herself sinking under the weight of all the trauma of her clients and her own anxieties. She seeks out help, but still struggles, sometimes making good choices, and sometimes making poor choices. People who are confused in their minds don’t always make clear headed decisions. Her mother has some emotional problems, too, and seems to feel a heavy burden of guilt when she can’t always be there for her daughter. Wren feels a kinship with Vincent Van Gogh because of their shared mental suffering and love of painting. When Casey, a friend and fellow sufferer of mental illness, comes back into her life, things become even more difficult.

Brown is a master at getting in her characters’ head space. She explores their thoughts deeply in her work. I think that’s why her books are so emotionally compelling. I found this book much more depressing than her other books. I didn’t expect the heaviness of the topic. If you are looking for an escape read, this is not your book. If you are looking for an authentic story with deep characters that wrestle like we all do, this is a wonderful choice. Brown always shares the hope of knowing Christ. 

There were some wonderful truths shared in relation to suffering, such as:

“Choose a sorrow that hopes instead of a sorrow that despairs.”

“If the Lord does not remove the cup of suffering, I’ve come to trust that he gives us the grace to drink it. And drinks it with us.”

If you love the depth of Brown’s other books, you will love this book too. 

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Shades of Light is a MUST READ.

I am really glad that I read Sharon Garlough Brown’s latest book, Shades of Light. I was already a fan of Brown’s earlier series, Sensible Shoes. Readers familiar with the Sensible Shoes series will recognize several characters on the periphery of this story, as well as meet beautiful new characters. 

While I was so glad that I read Shades, it was difficult to read at times. Emotional health is a hard topic, and issues like depression, disorders, grief, suicide, anxiety, loneliness, sleep problems, and panic attacks were all covered. I know Wren’s story (the main character) is fiction, but stories like hers are all too real. I appreciated Brown’s careful and compassionate examination of the inner workings of these struggles, as well as the effects on relationships. Brown gives the reader an inner view of Wren’s mother's pain as she watches Wren struggle, as well as a view of Wren’s pain as she watches her best friend struggle. 

I really enjoyed the weaving of Vincent Van Gogh’s story and art throughout the book. It made me curious to re-examine his work, as well as his life with greater sensitivity and compassion. I’ve added "Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life" by Carol Berry to my reading list.

I recommend this book as a MUST READ. Too often our faith communities have stigmatized mental health issues. Too often we have offered trite platitudes or have ignored pain and suffering. This book will give readers ideas on how to lovingly support someone that is struggling, while not sugar-coating the challenges. Each of us has friends and family members that are struggling with mental health issues.  Shades of Light will inspire you to walk with these loved ones with hope, love, compassion, boundaries and kindness.

I was provided with an free copy of Shades of Light by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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This is a wonderful book very heartfelt writting . Touched on many emotions in this story. It shows how the struggle of depression and anxiety can cripple a person but even though the character has to learn to deal with the crushing weight of life and old relationships with determination and friends there is hope. a touching book that sucked me into the characters life and made me cry and laugh and cheer her on. this is the first book by this author I have read and I am so glad that I did.
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Mental illness is a subject near and dear to my heart, and for this reason I’m especially drawn to the life of Vincent Van Gogh. So, when I read the blurb for Shades of Light and saw that he was mentioned I was pulled in immediately. The cover art helped too; I really, really love beautiful covers, and this one is gorgeous. 

The character of Wren and the issues with which she struggles are relatable to anyone who has suffered from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. The daily struggle just to keep living—the guilt, fear, loneliness and helplessness.... The author approaches this very difficult and often misunderstood subject with grace and does a great job of explaining things in a way that should help those who have never experienced depression understand, at least a little better, those who have. Weaving anecdotes from the life of Van Gogh throughout the story was brilliant. Also, there are so many great quotes’s hard to choose a favorite; I’ll definitely be sharing them on social media. This book is beautiful but bittersweet, sad but hopeful. I recommend it. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Sharon Garlough Brown's writing is profoundly deep and rich, and her newest book, Shades of Light, delves into the delicate topic of mental illness with compassion and care. In this book, we return to Kingsbury, Michigan, the setting for her Sensible Shoes series. However, we meet a new friend named Wren, and we join her in her struggle against debilitating depression, anxiety, and crippling panic attacks. Given the dark sadness of this topic, Sharon Garlough Brown masterfully leads her readers to view those so afflicted with compassion, kindness, and understanding. Cameo appearances of Sensible Shoes characters link this book to her previous writing, and add greater depth to those characters as we see how they are doing nine years later. Shades of Light is more than a simple novel. It gives us yet again an opportunity to continue learning from our literary spiritual director.
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Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown is a deeply emotional book. If you or someone you love deals with mental illness, you might be interested in this book. I think it is an important read and I applaud the publisher for taking it on. I have heard nothing but great things about this author’s other books so I was excited to pick this one up. I was not disappointed! The Scriptures and quotes used in this book really resonated with me. I have long held the belief of God’s nature that the author weaves into this book (no spoilers— you have to read it!). I highly recommend it. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher with no obligations. These opinions are entirely my own.
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If I’m honest I found this novel difficult to read. Not that it isn’t beautifully written, it is, but it takes you into the mind of someone struggling with mental illness and that is simply not an easy place to be.

I appreciated the exploration of Vincent van Gogh’s life alongside of Wren’s struggles. I also appreciated the exploration of the cross of Christ and what it means that we are all companions in suffering. There were some beautiful “shades of light” in this novel.

If you are looking for a book that will help you understand mental illness then I don’t think this is it. This is a book of companionship with mental illness more than an explanation of it. There is a mystery to the mind that can sometimes only be observed and can not be explained. The author asked hard questions around difficult topics, including the complete inadequacy of formulaic answers and the lack of clarity in where mental illness and sin align or diverge. I appreciated that Brown tackled many of the insufficient ways that the church deals with this topic.

This is a story of compassion and struggle: a story of Jesus who keeps company with us in all that is hard.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Shades of Light draws you in with its beautiful cover and intriguing description. Mental health has been a topic that has become a popular discussion in the last couple of years. It's become less shameful to talk about, yet there is still no easy way of breaking the chains it has on people's lives. In a world with social media, terror, and unrest, it's no wonder people are starting to understand how important mental health is, but it's also shocking how many people are becoming affected by it!

I was drawn to Shades of Light after seeing the cover. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I did with this book. It drew me in with its array of color and the bird in the center. When I found out this was a Christian book, I knew I wanted to read it.

The book is based on the life of a woman named Wren. As a social worker, she's seen a lot of pain, but what no one can see is that Wren is battling a war of her own. Wren is not okay, but she wants to be; so after checking into the hospital, she finally comes to grasp that there needs to be change in her life. Slowly working on her health, Wren finds a place where supportive people surround her; using her love for art, Vincent Van Gogh, and her newfound comfort in the picture of Jesus on the cross, Wren's journey to restoration is real and challenging. However, it only takes one person to undo all the work she's done, and when he resurfaces, she faces the biggest test of all.

It's in our human nature to want to help those who are down, but what happens when those people aren't receptive? We can talk and pray all we want, but that won't always help a person who has a mental illness. Some Christians say that it is due to a lack of faith that they are stuck in a state of anxiety and depression; however, it's so much more than that. Shades of Light explores the lives of those dealing with mental health issues and those who are trying to help. It takes a gentle approach and leans towards showing God's love and faithfulness throughout the struggles. 

The format of a book makes a world of difference! I read an early edition of this book (provided by NetGalley) and therefore struggled with the paragraph structure and indentations. I'd never thought about the importance of a page's setup until I read this book. It was hard to follow and connect with sometimes because I was continually trying to navigate whose perspective I was reading and who was speaking. However, putting all that aside, I did enjoy this book. Sharon Garlough Brown put a lot of research and planning in this book, and it showed. I loved how she incorporated Vincent Van Gogh's artwork and his letters to his friend Theo in with the story. I learned a lot of new things while reading this book. I'm confident that there are people who need to read this book, so I encourage you, whether you're suffering from mental health or not, to pick up this book and give it a go!
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This book offers the reader an insider’s, intimate, guided journey through the ups and downs of mental illness. Your chief tour guide on this journey is Wren, a young social worker who had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression during her high school years. Wren is a person of faith and this is her story.

As a young girl, Wren experienced change, sadness and worry. Her beloved Gran encouraged Wren to paint her feelings. Wren loved colors and that drew me to her character. She also loved beauty and was a keen observer of it.

As Wren participated in improving her mental health, she searched her memories for an underlying cause or reason for her ongoing battles with depression and anxiety. She repeatedly came up empty, and so she trudged on...with counseling, medications and learned coping mechanisms. Would she ever be healthy?

I loved reading about the recurring theme of having and needing a companion in sorrow, and then also being someone’s companion in sorrow. I loved the relationship between Kit and Wren...companions in sorrow. Each woman traveled their own separate paths and also traveled one together. I loved how expressions of creativity became declarations of worship and also impacted emotional and spiritual health.

You will explore and experience so very much while reading this beautifully written book. Heartache and hope. Brokenness and healing. Fear and courage. The illusion of control and the release of surrender. And, I dare say, that you just might acquire a greater appreciation for artists. I loved and am intrigued about all the references to Vincent Van Gogh and I fully intend to learn more about him and his story.

I love how God speaks to me through books that I enjoy so very much. He did it again! As I came to the end of this book, He reminded me once again of my favorite Bible verse.
Psalm 30:5 Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from InterVarsity Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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Shades of Light
A Novel

by Sharon Garlough Brown

InterVarsity Press

IVP Books

Christian , Religion & Spirituality

Pub Date 20 Aug 2019

I am reviewing a copy of Shades of Light through InterVarsity Press and Netgalley:

I couldn’t turn of the dark thoughts no matter how hard I prayed. I was desperate!

I spent the whole weekend in bed crying. The crying was constant, I couldn’t stop it.

I’ve dealt with bouts of depression before. A kind of dark cloud I have learned to live with. This time it was different. It felt like I was going under, I felt that I would never feel hopeful again. It only made my anxiety worse.

Wren Crawford a social worker, finds herself overwhelmed with the troubles of the world. Her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression are starting to take over her life. She seeks solace in art, spiritual formation, and pastoral care along with traditional therapeutic interventions. But a complicated relationship from her past also threatens to undo her progress.

I give Shades of Light five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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I devoured Shades of Light in a day - this is the first well-written Christian novel on mental health that I've read and I hope the author continues to write more books just like this. It's needed in the church!
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This was a BEAUTIFUL novel that depicted the real struggle of those who have mental illness and the people who love them. The mix of emotions, faith, and wrestling with how the two intertwine was depicted here through the life of main character Wren, her troubled friend Casey and her family. I appreciated the way this book honestly wrestled with issues and didn't conclude by tying them up nearly. It was a book I resonated with deeply and would highly recommend.
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For anyone who really doesn’t know anything about mental illness, this is a good book to read. The author has made the characters very relatable. I enjoyed learning more about Van Gogh and his art. I found myself looking up his artwork so I could see what the author was referring to. I would recommend this book, especially to anyone who has a friend or relative struggling with depression.
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I enjoyed this book on anxiety, depression, and mental illness.
I don't know that I have ever read a book written so heart-retching
on the subject. I am interested in reading more of her books. Suffering
from depression all of my life, this was an eye-opener that made me 
see I'm not alone. This book will help anyone have an understanding
of what we are going through. I highly recommend it.
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Sharon Garlough Brown deals with the difficult subject of depression with sensitivity and without cliché.  Wren, the protagonist, is so real she leaps off the page and into your heart.  I found this book an eye-opener for understanding the battles people face with anxiety, depression and mental illness.  The reality of the writing made the book absorbing, but quite tough going at times, as we follow Wren through her struggles. The book also explores the effect Wren’s life has on her mother and family is a gentle and thoughtful way.  Her writings about Van Gogh were a fascinating side-line.  Another great book from the author of the Sensible Shoes series.
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Thank you for allowing me to read this copy. I needed this book at this time in my life. I really connected with Wren. I found so much comfort in the scriptures included in this book. It was a reminder to me to open my Bible more and pray more. I have battled depression and mite recently anxiety. I’ve recently been studying the Bible and praying more. Most of the time alone. This book has shown me that I need family, friends, and believers to help in my journey. I loved the Vincent Van Gogh art references in this story. I love how Wren compared her journey with Vincent’s journey. I’m glad that Wren found the strength to over come her battles even in the midst of losing a friend. Thank you, again. I’m ready to read more of your books. Looking forward to the sequel from this book.
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