Summer is officially underway and I’m committed to making time for all the books I hope to read during this season. In keeping with my theme Summer of Culture: Friendship, Feasts, Fiction and Film, I’m focusing on works of fiction. If you’re like me, you probably read more than one book at a time. Usually, I’ll have at least three underway — something light (like fiction), a book that grows my faith and a work that challenges me or teaches me something new.

Shawn Smucker’s newest book Light from Distant Stars just about covers all my categories. I met the author over a year ago at the Festival of Faith and Writing and again last fall at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Shawn taught workshops at Breathe and met with writers to talk about their projects. He patiently, and with genuine encouragement, listened to me go on and on about my fiction work. I left our conversation inspired and challenged.

Shawn has written one memoir and two young adult novels. His memoir, Once We Were Strangers, is one of my favorite reads of 2018. When I heard his first adult novel was soon to be published, I pre-ordered (click the link in the title above) and agreed to join his launch team, which means I got to read this book a month early. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in three evenings (or rather, two evenings and one late-night marathon).

Inside this stunning cover is a beautifully told story that made me honestly care about the main character and his family. From the book’s description on Shawn’s website:

“When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect.

“Over the next week, Cohen’s childhood memories come back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his father being asked to leave his pastoral position. The game of baseball that somehow kept them together. And the two children in the forest who became his friends–and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he’s been avoiding: Did he kill his father?”

If that isn’t enough to peak your interest, I’ll let you in on the fact that this one is all about relationships. Yes, there’s a “monster” and a smattering of romance. But mostly, it’s about holding onto the good and finding a way to forgive the bad.

This didn’t exactly qualify as a “light” read, because the story is told with great attention to detail and in a manner that keeps you moving back and forth from past to present. (In other words, you have to pay attention.) It did cause me to examine my personal faith and to question how I would respond in circumstances found in the novel. And, I learned more than I wanted to about funeral homes and embalming. So, yes, this book covered my three categories.

If you’re a subscriber (which means I have your email address), I’ll be reaching out to you soon with the chance to win my copy of Light from Distant Stars. But don’t wait to hear from me! Order it now by clicking through the title above and receive your own copy when it releases on July 16.

A Word About Green Chef

Right here is where I’d hoped to drop in a photo of one of our meals from Green Chef. I signed up for the meal delivery program in April, took a break in May then ordered a couple more meals at the beginning of June. This wasn’t our first go-around with meal delivery. Last year, we received six meals from Hello Fresh and I gave the gift of three meals from Hello Fresh to one of our sons for his birthday. We were mostly satisfied with Hello Fresh, so I was hopeful we’d be just as happy with Green Chef.

My food photo is missing because, honestly, none of the meals we received from Green Chef were up to the honor. We tried two different menus (vegan and GF) and a couple of the meals were okay. The barbecue roasted chickpeas and the oven-roasted radishes and beets stand out, but mostly, we were underwhelmed. Lack-luster menus plus the massive amount of packaging materials used to protect our ingredients convinced us that this service was far too expensive, not that tasty and not good for the environment. Add the fact that a couple of the fresh ingredients were not-so-fresh, and you’ll understand why we canceled. So, I’m back to coming up with quick, healthy summer meals that can hold up as leftovers for nights I don’t want to cook.

Any suggestions?

The next time we meet here, we’ll be talking friendships, and I’ll be asking you to chime in.