To quote poet William Wordsworth, the child is father to the man.
Cohen Marah is 40-something, unmarried, working with his father in a funeral home. The story he tells begins as he steps over his father’s body, with blood pooling on the floor. The question is immediately begged: did Cohen just kill his father? The reader isn’t sure; neither is Cohen. AS it turns out, his father is still alive.
Cohen’s story runs on at least three different spools. Contemporary Cohen is struggling with his identity, as he moves back and forth between his father’s hospital room and the confession box at an Episcopal church. Child Cohen #1 is the son of a rather fire-breathing preacher, whose wife writes all of his sermons, whose marriage blows up because of adultery. Child Cohen #2 is the boy in alliance with two rather mysterious children he meets in the woods; together they start the hunt for an all-too-real beast
The three Cohens wind themselves around each other, as their stories coalesce and combine into one complete story in Light from Distant Stars, the new novel by Shawn Smucker. The novel has the kind of narrative approach that could have easily the reader in unraveling threads. Smucker neatly and expertly avoids that problem, and he pulls off an extremely satisfying story.
Light from Distant Stars is about the past shaping the present. It’s about human evil and human sin. It’s about a man trying to come to grips with his relationship with his father. It’s about trying to hold on to what matters in life, and if that can even be understood. It’s about a child discovering his parents have flaws and failings. And it’s about redemption.
In addition to the novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, Smucker has published four non-fiction works – Once We Were Strangers, My Amish Roots, Building a Life Out of Words, and Refuse to Drown. He and his family live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Light from Distant Stars is one fine, thought-provoking story. It does what a good story is supposed to do, and that is to unveil the truth in and about our lives.