Book review (AND GIVEAWAY): Sunlight Burning at Midnight: a memoir by Jessica Ronne

Another giveaway! How exciting! I know! But first, the book.

What the book is about: 

Sunlight Burning at Midnight is the memoir of Jessica Ronne, mother of eight. She documents her journey through several harrowing years of her life, which include a terminal diagnosis for one of her unborn children and another for her husband. One survives.

A major part of this memoir is her journey of faith – going from thinking she can pray away and control anything to realizing that she has control over precisely nothing in her life – where she clings to God in the most desperate of times and trials.

As she and her family come through the other side of life and death, a new chapter opens with her meeting a young widower, not entirely unlike herself. They join their family, almost like a modern day Brady Bunch, where they walk each next step together, figuring out how to live a new chapter of life after heartache and the most painful kind of loss in life.

What I liked: 

  • The raw honesty – there are no easy topics in this book and life continues to happen, no matter what is thrown into our path. Jess doesn’t try to whitewash her thoughts and feelings and acknowledges some really painful things in this book – like when she realized she was neglecting her family in search of God while she tried to cope with a terminal diagnosis for her unborn child and the anguish and anger she expressed while watching her beloved husband wither away.
  • The simplicity – she doesn’t try to cram too much into the book and stays with the theme of surviving some very long and hard years.
  • The consistent faith element – Jess shares about her faith in an authentic and intimate way, she shows the desperate hard work of keeping it during hard trials and the comfort it brought her when all was said and done. Again, it’s authentic and unwhitewashed, real and human.
  • Journal entries – We are walked through specific moments in time where she journaled her thoughts and feelings, the ugly and profound, sharing the deepest depths of her soul, and in one case, her late husband’s.

What I didn’t like: 

  • At a certain point, there were a LOT of journal entries in a row and I wanted some narrative to break those up and add a little more context.
  • Strange chronology – One chapter ends with skipping forward several years with her child and then time reverses to talk about Jason. I had a hard time getting that timeline back in my head after the jump forward and then back.
  • Pacing – The book starts with a good pace, with context and some other things, but once the story picks up with the pregnancy, the pace screams forward until the end of the book. I needed some time to breathe during the description of those years and the only way I could get that reprieve I needed emotionally was to simply stop reading. I would have liked a little more “mundane” narrative to break up the heavy, heavy material in the middle.

 

Overall thoughts and opinions: 

Given that one of my biggest personal fears is losing my husband, it was extremely difficult to read through parts of this book. It pulled to the surface the suffocating feeling I get when I think about the possibility that he might not come home. That said, this book is raw and honest and I enjoyed reading it.

Being a person of faith, I also loved the look at the development of her faith throughout these trials. Sometimes it can seem like faith is either for the superstitious or is portrayed as some kind of bad-situation-repelling force field, and this book assures us that neither is the case. Hard situations like these force us with faith to ask a big question: Do I believe God or not? Do I really believe in God or don’t I? I love the way Jess wrestles with it and takes us as readers alongside her.

I read this so fast and it kept me riveted. I would have really liked to see some more beefing up of the story to provide a little more context and a better sense of the time passage, which was several years, but I kind of lost the time passage because the pacing was SO fast. I was surprised when I read that Jason battled cancer for 3 years and I kind of felt like I’d missed something.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is even open to the possibility that there might be some kind of God somewhere out there in the universe. This raw telling of a season of her life is sure to impact, no matter where you stand in life or in faith. I give this book 4 stars.

4 star rating

Find out more about the book and Jess Ronne.

 

And GIVEAWAY!! If you’d like to enter for a giveaway, you can comment either here, facebook or twitter about a tough time in your life. If you comment here, BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS so that I can contact you if you win.

So, let’s talk about tough times. You can be sure to see one of mine coming up during this week, too.

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