Book Review: How the Light Gets In

cover- shows the night sky with stars

Why does evil exist? Why is there human suffering? I’ve always wondered these things my whole life. As a teenager I was very concerned about the state of the world (and still am) and have realized that even though bad things happen, sometimes positive stories come out of those bad situations and people are made stronger.

This book is like that. It’s about Keira Shae and the struggles and abuse she faced while growing up. I was a bit hesitant to read this book, since I dislike stories about abuse and similar things, (there’s already so much evil and suffering in the world) but it sounded like the book would end positively, so I started reading it.

I don’t usually read memoirs, but once I started reading this book, it immediately drew me in. Even though some stories may be full of sorrow, they can teach us about others, make us aware of issues in society, and make us better and more caring people. Shae says, “I hope these lessons I paid dearly for, then took the time to write down, will enrich your souls and infuse your bones like a concentrated broth” (3). Oftentimes, sorrow results in creativity, and as you’ll see throughout this book, Shae has shared many poems that help us feel and understand her heart.

Shae says, “In my own struggle of accepting all my light and my shadows, I find a stillness in myself and a radical love for others with all their glitter and gold….There is a crack in everyone. That’s how the light gets in” (3). Her words are very poetic throughout the book and Shae paints a clear picture of what her life was like.

The story begins with Shae’s childhood and goes through her teenage years, and there’s even a bit from her adult life in there. Shae experienced sexual abuse at a young age, and I found this very shocking to read. I hadn’t realized that sexual abuse on young children was so common. The writer’s mother was always bringing strange men home, getting married and divorced multiple times, and addicted to meth. Shae’s family was very poor and they moved too many times to count. She also had to take care of her younger siblings, because her mother was unable to.

There are some happy moments throughout the book. It’s not all depressing. There were times when the family was living an okay life, but it was very short-lived. I was especially upset when I read that her mother took some of Shae’s earnings away from her and kept manipulating her. It was difficult to read about a mother behaving this way towards her children.

It’s courageous of Shae to share the negative experiences she had while growing up. Though we are apt to focus on the positive stories, there is wisdom in reflecting on the negative as well. There are many lessons that we can learn from our own and others’ negative experiences. The important thing is that positivity and hope is sought for in the midst of suffering.

I especially loved this quote: “I don’t search far away for God; I am God. God exists in the eyes of everyone I meet. God is in the air I breathe, the water I drink. The entire universe is permeated with love, and I am included in that love. I am equal in divinity to everything I encounter. What I want matters, too” (234).

Another great quote, which may resonate with mothers is, “Being a mother is my greatest, loudest lesson: I cannot ignore myself. I cannot neglect myself. My desires, needs, and wants are my divine voice; my body is not a petulant child to discipline. My children will die if I am not (what I used to call) ‘selfish’” (233).

If you enjoy stories about an individual overcoming trials like poverty, abuse, and depression, this book is for you. Whether you’re single, married, and whether or not you are a mother, this book is definitely for you. This book is not just about Shae, but it can be about you. It reminds us to reflect back on our life, see how far we’ve come, and continue to build and improve ourselves.

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3 Responses

  1. allemandeleft2 says:

    Nice review. On my ‘to read’ list. Much to learn from these courageous woman who share their stories. Might be similar to The House We Grew Up in by Lisa Jewell.
    If we can see what has happened and is happening, then perhaps we can make a difference for at least one person.

  2. Rachel says:

    This is a really moving review. Thank you for writing and sharing it. I’ve gotten to hear Shae read from her book and talk a bit about it, and it was powerful.

  3. Ziff says:

    Thanks for the review, Dani!

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