Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Alison Strobel Morrow's The Weight of Shadows ~ Reviewed

The Weight of Shadows
By Alison Strobel Morrow
Published by: Zondervan
ISBN# 978-0-310-28945-6
316 Pages

Back Cover:

In The Weight of Shadows, by Alison Strobel Morrow, after a difficult childhood, Kim has built a successful life for herself ... but she'd leave it all if it meant being rid of the guilt she harbors over a tragic mistake she made years ago. When she meets Rick, she finds everything she needs---including a way to pay for her sins every time he hits her. Kim and Rick's new neighbor, Joshua, knows more than Kim realizes about Rick, but Joshua has battles of his own to fight. Soon to intersect Kim's and Rick's lives is Debbie, who has saved countless women from abuse through the shelter she runs, but Debbie might be as desperate for love as the women she serves. Meanwhile, as Rick's wrath extends to their baby, Kim must decide if her penance is more important than protecting that innocent life---and if she should dare leave Rick when he has the power to bring her hidden crime to light.


I just finished the last page of Alison Strobel Morrow’s new book and I’m glad I received a review copy of this realistic, haunting look at how each choice we make in life could take us takes us on an unexpected journey. This author shows how easy it is to get in the middle of a bad situation that might seem impossible to get out of.

Alison paints an unnerving but hopeful picture of a young orphan girl desperate for love. Kim hasn’t done anything about this deep desire because she’s kept busy going to school to be a hair dresser and then found a job in a salon. But one night at her roommates’ party, she notices a guy. He notices her too! She can’t believe her luck and on her birthday of all days. She hadn’t been looking for love, yet here it was! What a nice guy; they had so much to talk about - he even grew up in foster care like she did! What are the chances of that? Kim has finally found someone who gets her and someone she can be herself with.

Alison has another story line going in contrast to Kim’s - its Joshua’s story. He’s a young man who’s been in a healthy, loving relationship with his wife, but has lost her to cancer. He’s been a Christian for awhile and can’t understand why God has taken his young wife and left him to raise their pre-school daughter alone.

The author goes back and forth from Joshua to Kim’s story and you wonder if their lives will intersect. Then Joshua moves really close to Kim and the chances of them meeting are great! Both Kim and Joshua’s lives have been turned upside down and each is struggling to get their feet on solid ground.

This author writes a very sensitive, thought-provoking book about how women find themselves in the middle of an abusive relationship - one that didn’t start out that way. They had fun times. They had hopes and dreams for a happy life...then things turned dark. Little by little the relationship changed until they felt trapped. Then afraid and couldn’t see a way out.

Alison also reveals some of the lies that women like Kim believe about themselves that keep them in these relationships. Kim does realize that this is not right and then justifies staying because of what she believes about herself. She has a secret, she’s done a horrible thing, and she tells herself that this is the punishment for her terrible deed.

The author talks about statics of abused woman in the book; not all women who are abused come from the foster care system. Abuse happens all over the world and across all different class structures and social statuses. The abusers and manipulators have all different jobs and degrees; they are very convincing and often times will make the woman feel like she’s stupid, crazy, clumsy and/or she imagined the things that happened to her. The victim starts to believe these lies and works harder at pleasing the abuser so the pain will stop. They work harder to become perfect but they never arrive.

Kim highlights the aspects about her relationship with Rick that are healthy for her girls group, “…things they should be looking for in a boyfriend. Like how Rick watched out for her, always wanting to know where she was going and when she’d be back, so he’d figure out sooner if something had happened to her. Or how he tried to make life easier, in little ways – like how he ordered for her in restaurants or told her what to make for dinner so she didn’t have to come up with something on her own.” All these things were thoughtful at first but quickly turn into ways of controlling Kim’s every move. She rapidly becomes trapped.

This was not a pie in the sky walk with God. It’s gut wrenchingly honest and I like that about this story and the characters. I was thrilled when I heard Alison had a new book out but hesitated when I heard of the subject matter. I was afraid of where this book might take the reader. I was drawn into the story by the main character, Kim. She was likable, and a little different than the average bear. I’m happy that the violence in the book is not graphic or drawn out but definitely revealing and enough to show you what goes on behind closed doors and beyond in an abusive relationship. Some of the self talk and the lies Kim believed about herself I found chilling.

I also enjoyed Joshua and his daughter, Maddie. She was adorable and Joshua was a good dad, sticking to his boundaries with his in-laws, who want to draw him into an unhealthy relationship. He sticks to what is right for everyone involved. Joshua realizes that his in-laws are not Christians and they were blaming him for their daughters’ death and his lack of care for her. They felt that if Joshua had taken better care their daughter, she would be alive. They believed their own lies. How could he walk in his faith and not enter into an abusive relationship with his in-laws? I liked this about Joshua and the fact that Alison had included this struggle in the book. It contradicted the unhealthy relationship Kim found herself in.

I think this book gives an honest glimpse into a woman’s choices that get her into, and keep her in, an abusive situation. I have to say this is definitely not the book I expected it to be...for that I am thankful. It wasn’t graphic and depressing. Instead, the book showed ways to recognize someone being abused, how to offer help and how to set healthy boundaries with people, as in Joshua’s case. Alison helps the reader see how these abusive relationships start and how women can get help to leave. There is healing and love for their weary soul! Healing takes time and happens on so many levels. This is a powerfully moving story of hurt, hope, healing and forgiveness. It’s a tough subject matter but well worth the read.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

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