Shine the Light – April McGowan

Shine the Light April McGowan
Shine the Light by April McGowan
Series: Hold the Light #2
Published by WhiteFire Publishing on April 19, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Christian
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Shannon is out to save the world one caring act at a time. She's stood by her best friend, Amber, through their whole lives especially when Amber lost her sight. She has an active outreach ministry to the homeless and disenfranchised. And she's even let down her guard long enough to let a boyfriend, Justin, into her life.Her life has settled into a pleasing routine of teaching, freelance photography work, quiet dinners with Justin, and taking Amber on treks to find new subjects for her visionary paintings.
But when a man from her past shows up, her secure world crumbles into triggered PTSD episodes that threaten everything she relies on. Will she be able to overcome these old memories, or will her past crush any hopes she had for a future?

Shine the Light is the book equivalent of a Hallmark movie. I really don’t need to say much more than this. There’s over-the-top all-too-easily resolved drama. There’s cheesy and easy romance. There’s several stock characters that have no personality despite having great potential for personality. It’s a formula that’s proven to work, so it’s hard to fault McGowan for it, but it’s not my kind of novel. If you like Hallmark movies, this one is right up your alley.

At the outset, we are introduced to Shannon, a side character in Hold the Light, who has overcome a troublesome past and now works as a photographer and volunteers at a homeless shelter. She soon runs into her father, who abandoned her as a child for his drug addiction. Shannon has never really forgiven her father and is grateful that he doesn’t recognize her.

But just the knowledge of his presence is enough to trigger her PTSD and cause her to reconsider the stability she thought she’d set up for herself. The novel also flashes back to Shannon’s past, detailing her mother’s death by overdose, her father’s slide into addiction and homelessness, and her eventual journey into foster care. These sections are the most compelling, while also leaving the most to be desired. Each of these tendrils seems to fall into a set stereotype. McGowan writes as if the story is paint-by-numbers, checking off each facet in a solid, if perfunctory fashion. She never dives deep enough into the story to really draw out the character’s motivations or emotions.

A quick review of April McGowan’s published work shows a distinct focus on mental health and emotional trauma. These are tricky subjects that leave even the best authors struggling to create real and deep storylines that do justice to these all-too-common traumas. Shine the Light simply isn’t up the challenge. Unless you want a Hallmarkified story, which McGowan could very well have been going for, in which case, have at it.