Light under the House by Aaron L. and Donna Dawson is a family saga in which we follow several generations of the Levi/Quince clan. We see how the decisions and choices of one era impact the next, and witness how the results of bad choices expand to impact many beyond the family circle.
The story starts out simply, almost like a fable or parable (the opening scenes reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son from the Bible). However, it soon becomes much more complicated and unpredictable as fantasy and paranormal elements enter the plot. In some places the writing reminded me of apocalyptic passages from the Old Testament prophets and Revelation. Other scenes took me back to Pilgrim’s Progress. In still other places I saw similarities to modern tales where characters go in search of religious artifacts (e.g. The Ark by Boyd Morrison).
The book is labeled Christian suspense, but overt Christian content is practically non-existent until the last few chapters. Though there are references to biblical imagery in various places (the biblical character Jezebel figures prominently in the book; in one vision John Quince sees a lamb; in another a stone crashes into and topples an idol; and in still another he experiences an ever-rising flood of water), the meaning of these story elements is never explained, so I wasn’t sure if the authors were attempting to evoke the Bible themes suggested by them or were using these scenes as a simple link to the Bible, as in causing us to ask: Where have I seen that before? Ah, the Bible. By the end we discover that the Jezebel theme is meant to convey all that that character conveyed in the Bible. Similarly, the theme of light and dark — note the title — runs true to biblical form.
In trying to understand my reaction to the book, something writer Sol Stein says about reading and writing came to mind: “…the reader most wants an experience different from and richer than what he daily abides in life …. Good writing is supposed to evoke the sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon” – Stein on Writing, p. 8.
In that last sense this book has lots of good writing. The description is detailed. The interactions between people are believable. The conversations are realistic. The conflicts are intense. The fights are brutal. The taste of blood is metallic…
The trouble is, I didn’t enjoy the amount of time I had to spend submerged in this story’s dark places, amplified because they are portrayed with graphic realism. This story contains a lot of violence, abuse, mayhem, and murder. There are many sexually suggestive scenes. None of the characters is in a good place emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually. Up till two thirds of the way through the book I had to force myself to read on. The story does end on a positive note, though.
According to author Aaron L.’s recent Blogcritics interview, the book is somewhat autobiographical in that it deals with a lot of his personal issues. For someone wrestling with the same demons, the book will no doubt come across differently than it did to me, and may well provide a sense of companionship and hope.
The anything-goes setting was also a problem for me. So many things just happened out of the blue. For example, two characters were in the supposedly secure compound of an estate, but then were assaulted by a host of intruders with not even any puzzlement on the part of the victim as to how they got in. People appeared and disappeared willy nilly. Half the time I didn’t know whether the main character was having a vision or experiencing “reality” — and sometimes neither did he. The journey through the random setting the authors created& mdash; a universe in which there seemed to be no rules and anything the writers dreamed up could happen — left me disoriented.
As you can see, this book is not my preferred genre. However, if suspense/fantasy/paranormal is yours, and you like it served up by flawed, edgy characters via a plot that is completely unpredictable, Light under the House may be your cup of tea.
(I received this book as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.)