At one time, I read Emile Richard novels as soon as they appeared on the library shelves. I loved that they were always a little longer than many novels, giving me more time to savor the stories. Then somehow I strayed from keeping up with her latest writings. When I chanced upon an ad for her newest title THE COLOR OF LIGHT, I made a interlibrary loan request immediately. I did not realize it was actually the fourth book in a series called THE GODDESS ANONYMOUS NOVELS, but I am delighted that it is since I now have three other of her books to catch up on. I've also discovered that Richards has written a mystery series that I've overlooked. So many books, so little time.
Analiese Wagner ended her career as a news reporter over a decade ago and entered the seminary. She has led her congregation for several years now, and feels she has made the right choice, although sometimes the endless committees and council meetings over the minutiae of the parish is stifling. When she discovers that a homeless family has set up a tent in a secluded area between the academy and the church, Analiese makes a decision to invite them into a long empty apartment in a parish building. She quickly assesses that the father who goes by the nickname Man and his wife Belle are beyond the breaking point and that almost total responsibility for day to day survival has fallen on their fourteen year old daughter Shiloh. Analiese steps in to help everyone in the family, including Shiloh's younger brother, Ethan, whose hyperactivity has been sent out of control by their homelessness. There is a strong authenticity to this homeless family. Readers will find themselves thinking about how a solid family can begin to crumble after job and home losses until soon no one is the person they were before.
Analiese's decisions put her congregation at odds and many begin to question her judgment. Their inability to see that helping the struggling family is a Christian duty of love adds to Analiese's distress. It is at that time that Isaiah Colburn reenters her life. Analiese met Isaiah, a Catholic priest, when she was a reporter, and he was mainly responsible for encouraging her to follow the path to ministry. Along the way, both found that they had feelings for the other, and Isaiah disappeared from her life. Now he has suddenly reappeared, and it appears he is at a serious crossroad in his life.
When I saw that this novel would include a possible relationship between a priest and a minister, I was taken aback and wondered if I wanted to read it. But I knew Emile Richards was a good writer and I always especially liked how her characters approached life, so I continued the book. I was not disappointed. She's not a "Christian writer" but she really laid out a real life Good Samaritan scenario. Through Analiese, she tells us plainly where congregations should be putting their hearts and their time. She also shows how those shepherders of faith can become weary of seeing their congregations leave the church walls each Sunday to return a week later with nothing in their daily lives changed. I also felt that Richards handled the delicate subject of a priest leaving the priesthood in a believable way. Richards is a trained family counselor which may help explain her compassionate tone to her novels and her realistic, layered characterizations. This is a complex novel filled with forgiveness, healing, and hope. I recommend it.