Light {Book Club}

Light {Book Club}

During a recent season of transition and grief, a mentor shared with me that at one time, her husband refused to go to psychotherapy for his childhood trauma. He claimed that if he unlocked the box that was buried deep down in the basement of his soul, he would unleash an unbearable sadness and likely never be able to stop the tears.

The characters of These Nameless Things have finally managed to climb their way out of that basement, and what does Dan do? He returns. He joins his brother, and they suffer alongside one another in the depths of their despair.

Even though I believe his actions were driven out of guilt for feeling responsible for the plane crash, he ends up empathizing with his brother in the pit.

As a person who likes resolution and clarity, I was not sold on These Nameless Things in the first few chapters. While there is so much to unpack, I would like to focus on the amazing job Shawn Smucker did of portraying the messiness of healing and grieving.

We all experience “hells” or suffering here on earth, and although this book technically takes place in the afterlife, I think that it serves as a metaphor for our daily struggles.

Throughout the book, there were different layers of hell. Some included intense mourning and pain, while others consisted of plain sadness. We saw fear, denial, and lying.

What I appreciated most about the last section of the book is that the escape out of “hell” was not cut and dry. Each layer was messy, and some even included elements from other sections. The memories that would haunt or help did not come in any specific order. The characters at any given point were not even certain what was reality or not.

The definition of “hell” itself is not even clear. Is the suffering being caused by others, or simply from the consequences of their actions or feelings? “I could see long, deep scratches on the back of his neck. Were they the marks his abusers had left, or were they gouges of guilt, self-inflicted?”

Reading through the tangled mess, which remained a mess up until the last page, I couldn’t help but think of John 1:5:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. “

Whether deep in the pit or close to the mountain in the East, there is a presence of darkness and light. In the pit, we see forgiveness. At the edge of the mountain on the other side, we see Kathy convince people to return to the pit. We can never escape the darkness, but we can focus on the Light that guides us. And even in our darkest of places, we can trust that the darkness will not, and CANNOT, overcome the Light.

Isn’t it curious when Dan FINALLY tells the truth? But before he confesses, he admits, “You wouldn’t be here if you knew me, if you knew what I did.”

And even though he thought it impossible, he was met with forgiveness. As messy as the rest of the story would continue to be, they are able to start a new life, in the Light. Hopefully they would never return to the darkened pit; but, even if they did, it would never be too late for forgiveness.

When have you experienced trying to climb out of the pit? Have you ever unexpectedly been met by a glimmer of light in a place of darkness?

August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups

We’re going in a direction we haven’t gone here in Book Club! Next month we are excited to be reading the book Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. This book is going to feed into conversations and opportunities we have coming up and we feel like those discussions will be rich and helpful. Here’s a little bit more about the book!

“By contesting long-held cultural paradigms, this book equips you to see how sexuality is rooted in the broader context of God’s heart and His work for us on earth. It provides a framework from which to understand the big picture of sexual challenges and wholeness, and helps you recognize that every sexual question is ultimately a spiritual one. It shifts the paradigm from combating sexual problems to confidently proclaiming and modeling the road to sacred sexuality.”

Schedule for Rethinking Sexuality by Dr. Juli Slattery

September 7: Part 1 (Chapters 1-2)

September 14: Part 2 (Chapters 3-7)

September 21: Part 3 (Chapters 8-10

September 28: Part 4 (Chapters 11-12)


  1. Rachel Kahindi August 24, 2021

    It made sense to me that the mountain, etc, happened in the afterlife. There was a lot of resolution in the end, and I think I’m satisfied, but I still have questions… And I guess the answers aren’t part of the story.

    What does it mean that there are no more people in the mountain? Why would the people affected by the crash of a small plane be the last people to sort through the issues of their lives?

    What is it about Abe that makes him so important to people? He seems like a Christ figure. Did we learn anything about his life?

    Anyway… I appreciated that after suffering in the mountain, they had to remember and forgive people they knew in life before they felt like moving on. I wonder if those who got ready to move on (as Dan never did) realized where they were. It was also interesting that so many people were content to settle in towns along the route and not move on to the other side of the mountain.

    All in all, I liked it. Very thought provoking.

    1. Amanda Hutton August 28, 2021

      Rachel, I agree that in some ways, Abe seems like Jesus. He even risked it all to go back and lock up the enemy.

  2. Bayta Schwarz August 24, 2021

    I’m still not the biggest fan but by the end, I had warmed to this book 🙂 So many individual scenes were very moving and resonated with real-life experiences of guilt, shame, forgiveness, and restoration. Like others have mentioned as well, I appreciated the messiness of it all. Had the story been too linear and with easy answers, that would have left me a lot more frustrated and the many open questions did.

    1. Amanda Hutton August 28, 2021

      Yes, by the middle of the book, the messiness grew on me. I felt like I was experiencing the confusion that comes with grieving or being stuck in a personal hell.

  3. Michelle Kiprop August 26, 2021

    Amanda, your summary and commentary are beautiful. Just reading your final assessment helped me rethink a few things. I’ve got to admit that I really didn’t care for this bookM. The first two sections were the ones I enjoyed the most. And then it just kept raising more and more questions. And I didn’t feel like most of my questions were answered when all was said and done. The whole purgatory/afterlife working out of ones issues just doesn’t do much for me. I’m so very thankful to live under and walk in grace through Jesus Christ. It’s been a very long time since I read the Inferno. So maybe there were insights and parallels I would have recognized, had it not been so dusty in my mind.

    1. Amanda Hutton August 28, 2021

      I am so glad that you found beauty in my summary, because I found it challenging to conclude any ONE thing. There is just so much to digest. This is definitely a unique read!

  4. Phyllis August 27, 2021

    Okay. I finished reading. Looking for the nods to Dante was fun, but otherwise I didn’t love this one.

    On a different note: who has read Piranesi? It’s nothing like this one, except that it’s a little strange and mysterious, but it’s amazing.I read it recently and loved it. I passed it on to my daughter right away, and she loved it, too. Now I’m listening to a podcast going through some of the really good themes and ideas in it. I recommend Piranesi by Susanna Clarke to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

    I think I’m looking forward to our next VA read? Not sure I really want to go there, but it should be good.

  5. Amanda Hutton August 28, 2021

    Hats off to you for finishing! I can definitely see why a book like this is not for everyone. I hope you were able to glean some sort of enjoyment ha! One thing I love about this book club is that it stretches me to read beyond the normal genres I tend to gravitate toward.

    Let’s see about that next read! 😉

  6. Phyllis August 30, 2021

    By the way, there’s a “100 Days of Dante” online event starting soon. I’m signed up for it, and can’t wait. Maybe this book was a good primer to get me back into Dante after many years away. 🙂

  7. Sarah Hilkemann August 31, 2021

    I would agree with Michelle that I liked the first half of the book better than the second. It felt a little creepy and piqued my curiosity. The second half felt heavy (which I suppose was intended) and confusing.
    I have definitely learned through the years and especially my years overseas that grief is messy and not very straightforward. Different people deal with grief and pain differently. I don’t know about dealing with these sorts of things in an afterlife/purgatory type setting, but I know in this life sometimes I either ignore what I need to process or cling tightly to the pain when I need to let go.
    Also I would say if you didn’t love this book, don’t give up on Shawn Smucker! 🙂 I liked his book Light from Distant Stars.
    And I’m with Amanda that being stretched in what I read is one of my favorite parts of Book Club! 🙂 Please join us next month- if for nothing else than to help Rachel and me feel less awkward. 😉

    1. Amanda Hutton September 4, 2021

      Haha yes, Sarah, this month’s book club selection will DEFINITELY stretch us all!

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