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The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson

Reviewed by John Perrodin

"...will have the reader flipping pages to find out what will happen next to Ruth as she feels an implosion building in her soul."

Melody Carlson’s newest psychological chiller, The Other Side of Darkness, opens the door on a life clouded by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Ruth, a young mother burdened with the daily duties of keeping a house in order, has one main goal: pleasing her family, church, and pastor. Maybe, if she works hard enough, she can earn the love she craves. A good start, of course, would be to pray three hours before bed instead of only two. Perhaps that will outweigh her latest mistake and lessen her husband’s anger at her foolish overspending.

Though a thirty-something adult, Ruth feels continuing pain at her mother’s assertion that she was “a mistake” – not a planned pregnancy – like her beloved brother. For that reason, she has always been an outsider and her two siblings seem eager to take advantage of their privileged position over her.

But as a strong Christian, Ruth knows she must look past such pettiness. Determined to take the high and holy road in relational conflicts she pulls closer to Pastor Glenn, a man who feels certain that he hears directly from the Lord. Ruth has seen evidence of this. The man isn’t afraid to publicly call down heaven’s wrath on church members trapped in sin.

When an old friend, who’s a bit too worldly for Ruth’s tastes, questions Pastor Glenn, Ruth reacts by developing a bond with a church devotee named Cynthia. Like Pastor Glenn, Cynthia knows that the Lord speaks through her. Needless to say, this attitude makes for some uncomfortable Bible study sessions, but Ruth persists. No matter what filth is revealed in her spirit, at the end of a difficult day Ruth can escape to her shower to soap and rinse, soap and rinse, over and over. How else can she feel clean?

When Pastor Glenn starts a new fellowship of true believers, he invites Ruth to take on a leadership position. With Cynthia urging her to new spiritual heights, Ruth sinks deeper into the ever-increasing expectations of her clinging church family though it means growing apart from her own husband and daughters.

The Other Side of Darkness will have the reader flipping pages to find out what will happen next to Ruth as she feels an implosion building in her soul. Through a carefully-drawn character that we care about, Carlson both sheds light on the seriousness of OCD, while also providing markers for Christians who may be wandering toward a cult disguised as a church. On both counts, this compelling, powerful novel urges readers to strengthen their own faith foundations.

John PerrodinJohn Perrodin is the Senior Editor for the Christian Writers Guild. He co-authored the Renegade Spirit Trilogy with Jerry B. Jenkins. The latest release in that series is Seclusion Point (Thomas Nelson). His book, Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life, written with Michelle Cox, releases in April 2008 from David C. Cook. Please visit www.simplelittlewords.com to find out more about the book, and visit John's website www.johnperrodin.com to find out more about his writing.