Lost In Darkness By Michelle Griep
Even if there be monsters, there is none so fierce as that which resides in man’s own heart.
Travel writer Amelia Balfour’s dream of touring Egypt is halted when she receives news of a revolutionary new surgery for her grotesquely disfigured brother. This could change everything, and it does . . . in the worst possible way.
Surgeon Graham Lambert has suspicions about the doctor he’s gone into practice with, but he can’t stop him from operating on Amelia’s brother. Will he be too late to prevent the man’s death? Or to reveal his true feelings for Amelia before she sails to Cairo?
The author has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re reading a classic. You truly feel like you’re in Regency England—and yet her prose is still understandable and down to earth.
This story is wildly creative. I mean, really, how many Frankenstein retellings are there, period, much less on the Christian market? It’s the kind of book that sticks out and sticks with you.
The author is also a master of suspense. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and actually noticed my heart racing at certain moments. The thing is, it’s not even like it’s an action packed story. It has its fair share, yes, but she managed to make me feel the suspense in everyday encounters, too.
The Scripture and theme are woven in without being pushy or overbearing. I automatically cringed when the characters were set up for a conversion arc, just because it is rarely done well. This novel handles it in a realistic and very-not-cheesy way.
I only had one negative thing to say about this book, but it was a big enough one that I debated whether or not to write this review. I try not to post negative reviews of a book unless there is something truly wrong with it (because it’s just mean to drag a good book down because it wasn’t your jam. Negative reviews hurt authors!).
This was a story that went down really well . . . but after an hour or so to think, I realized it had some major flaws in its representation of disabled persons. I searched the book on numerous book review sites and didn’t see anyone talking about this problem, so I decided to go ahead and write the review.
Please note this is NOT me discounting the book. I highly, highly doubt the author ever intended to present these messages. Sometimes we writers try to represent something well, and we just don’t get it right. We learn from our mistakes. And this is still a lovely book and an excellent read.
There is no way to discuss this without spoilers, so if you’re not interested in spoilers, please skip to the conclusion.
As you learn from the back cover copy, the main character (Amelia’s) brother, Colin, is facially disfigured. He plays the role of the monster in the retelling. (You can even see the token “grotesquely disfigured” line in the back cover copy above.
That’s a little bit of a cringey casting anyway—people with facial disfigurement are already cast as villains/monsters all the time, and who really wants to hear that they’re a monster all the time?
But then the entire story revolves around Colin believing he’s a monster, everyone else believing he’s a monster, and everyone desperately pursuing a surgery that will make him “normal.” While Colin eventually makes peace with himself, most of the other characters do not. In general, it feels as if they’re saying “we love you just the way you are, but if you could fix yourself, I mean, we won’t argue” feel.
Major spoilers begin here, so seriously.
In the third quarter of the book, Colin does unwillingly go through with the surgery, under pressure from the other characters. It goes wrong and causes injury to Colin’s brain, leaving him mentally disabled.
As soon as this happens, the plot immediately shifts to Amelia and everyone around her worrying about “the pressure.” How will Amelia ever handle it all? It’s such a burden to bear. She will never be able to travel again. It’s made a big deal that Colin is holding her back from her dreams and she’s having to sacrifice everything for him and he’s a terrible burden.
Is caring for a mentally disabled person a burden? Pressure? Stress? I imagine so. I can’t imagine the strength of some of these families. But this just stripped all the value from Colin—like he was good for nothing because he had a brain injury.
Shortly thereafter, Colin dies in the climax. First off, it was just entirely too convenient. Solved the problem so Amelia was no longer beholden to him. It seemed like a cheap way out.
We get a chapter or two of some very poignant grief—and then everyone just moves on. Amelia gets engaged (Graham conveniently proposed now that Colin’s out of the way) and is back to traveling to Egypt and living her best life. Never been happier. Because Colin’s out of the way.
All of this unintentionally sent the message that physically or mentally disabled persons are seen as monsters and are horrible burdens that hold those they love back from their best lives and selves.
I couldn’t help but think about how people with these disabilities or families that support them would feel reading this story.
I really wish Colin would have lived. I wish I could have gotten to meet Colin as he was with his injury. I wish Graham and Amelia would have committed to care for him and value him no matter what. I wish they would have acknowledged the challenges, yes, but also the blessings. I would have liked to see them have to make some hard choices. I wish Colin had been valued, not forced to go through with that surgery after all. I wish I could have seen Colin being allowed to be himself and overcoming the daily challenges of living with a disability.
Please remember, I do not believe for a second that this message was ever this author’s intention. The book otherwise was wildly creative and a solid read, and I’m still eagerly awaiting more in the series. Honestly, I think the rest of the series could be a wonderful chance to better represent disabilities in the future. This particular story just could have benefited from some time and maybe some more sensitivity readers.
If you’re looking for a fall read with just the right amount of spooky, Lost in Darkness is it. While marred by some poor representation of disabilities, maybe it will serve to spark some more thought about the real life people who face these challenges every day.
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Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!