Saturday, June 08, 2013

Book Review ~ The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson

 Ruth and her family seem like the ideal family.  She is a stay at home mom to two wonderful girls and her husband, Rick, is a hard working father providing for his family.  They attend church together and Ruth has just removed the girls from public school and registered them into the church's school even though the tuition put a serious dent into their budget.  All seems to be going just right in their lovely family. But Ruth is hiding deep self esteem issues that stem back to her treatment when a child by her mother.  And she knows that she must pray and pray hard to fight off that same evil from destroying her own family.  But when her best friend Colleen starts to have serious doubts about the church they are attending as does her husband, Rick, Ruth pushes back by getting even more serious about fighting the battle in prayer and doing what she has to loosen the grip of worldy things upon her family, even if it means usurping Rick in every decision.  When the pastor is fired amidst rumors of an affair, Ruth takes matters into her own hands and helps him to set up another church.  But the more Ruth battles in prayer against the demons she is starting to find lurking in every corner, the less peace she has.  Will she ever get it right and win this spiritual battle?  

This was not an easy story to read as the author takes us into the mind of a person sliding deeper and deeper into mental health issues.  Ruth does not realize that she is actually battling Obssessive Compulsive Disorder and is the very thing that is making her latch onto what she in her mind feels is destroying her family.  The story begins with Ruth starting with the greatest of intentions in prayer and heartfelt dedication and service to the Lord but it soon spirals into Ruth becoming obsessed with evil and demons to the point where she sees demons lurking everywhere and in everything including inatimate objects. Her whole focus starts to become demons and evil rather than the Lord.   Becoming entangled with a handful of church members who rely on her need to feel wanted and useful and able, they draw her into their circle by giving her responsibilities that build her self esteem.  Not recognizing that she is lured into cultlish and unbiblical practices, she accuses the ones who are trying to point it out to her of being influenced by the very evil she is fighting.  It was hard after awhile to continue on reading of the constant focus on demons that Ruth began to have but it was the nature of her illness.  In the reader's guide at the back the author poses the question, "Were you surprised to discover that OCD sufferers are at greater risk for spiritual deception?  Why or why not?".  In all honesty I had never ever thought of that but after reading Ruth's story I could see how that would be possible.  Even though the reading did start to get difficult, I stuck with the story to find out what would happen to Ruth's girls, who through their mother, were also being drawn into the cult that Ruth was becoming entrenched in.  In her obsession to save her family she actually started to endanger their lives.  I wanted to see how Rick would resolve the scary descent that he saw happening to his family.  Though the end was gut wrenching the actual resolution, I found, was wrapped up quicker than I would have liked.  I wanted to see a bit more of Ruth's actual journey of dealing with letting go ingrained ideas she had battled with.  Though I suppose the book then would have become double the size in it's reading.  A tough book to read but one that was interesting in it's journey into the mind of someone dealing with mental illness and cults and it's repercussions on the loved ones around them. 

The author's notes (worth the quick read) andan excerpt of the book can be found  here


Faith said...

This book sounds pretty good. I deal with 3 students who besides autism, also have OCD (often the case actually in autistic children) and my Bible study small group was just talking about how sometimes Christians find satan lurking behind every corner or blame Satan when it's just natural consequences. I'm gonna put this one on my list too. I have seen this author's books in our town library so I know they purchase this type of book. Thanks for the review!!

Barbara H. said...

This sounds like it would be valuable in that Christians need to see that even well-meaning Christians can have OCD, and may be even more likely to think they see demons behind things since they know they are real. But it still sounds kind of disturbing and something I'd have to be in the right frame of mind to read.

Harvee @ Book Dilettante said...

Sounds like a gripping novel with a message.