Shades of Light: A Novel, By Sharon Garlough Brown alt

Shades of Light

A Novel

by Sharon Garlough Brown

Shades of Light
  • Length: 360 pages
  • Published: August 20, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 6526
  • ISBN: 9780830865260

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"I was desperate. . . . I couldn't turn off the dark thoughts, no matter how hard I tried or how much I prayed. And then I spent a whole weekend in bed, and the crying wouldn't stop, and I got really scared. I've had bouts with depression before—it's kind of a cloud I've learned to live with—but this time was different. I felt like I was going under, like I'd never feel hopeful again, and then that just made my anxiety worse and it all spiraled from there."

Wren Crawford is a social worker who finds herself overwhelmed with the troubles of the world. Her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression are starting to overcome her. She finds solace in art, spiritual formation, and pastoral care along with traditional therapeutic interventions. But a complicated relationship from her past also threatens to undo her progress.

Fans of Sharon Brown's bestselling Sensible Shoes Series will be delighted to discover some old friends along the way. As Wren seeks healing in this beautifully written novel, readers are invited to move beyond pat answers and shallow theology into an experience of hope and presence that illuminates even the darkness.

"This novel skillfully tackles the dark topics of depression and suicide as well as the often misguided way Christians treat mental illness. It asks the hard questions such as how one should support a loved one who deals with this disease and what to do when our best intentions are ineffective in providing help and solace. Beautiful and haunting, Shades of Light is a heart-wrenching and necessary read that ultimately offers hope."

Elizabeth Musser, author of The Long Highway Home

"Sharon Garlough Brown uses the vulnerable, sensitive, compassionate, and creative character of Wren to sympathetically immerse the reader into her valiant struggles of coping with depression and anxiety. With Wren's deep insights into the life of Vincent van Gogh, we are invited to participate in the illuminating potential of visio divina to experience the comforting aspects of Vincent's art. Sharon succeeds in revealing what hides beneath the surface of the two wounded and kindred spirits—Wren and Vincent—namely, their compassion and their spiritual and intellectual depth. This is a book that compels us to be more compassionate and less judgmental."

Carol A. Berry, lecturer, author of Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life

"Sharon Garlough Brown's Shades of Light is a rare and beautiful study in contrasts. Faith and doubt, control and surrender, acceptance and resistance—all are woven into the darks and lights of a story so real and provoking that you will find yourself aching, wondering, hoping, and even praying alongside her luminescent characters. The struggles of depression and anxiety, of parenting and being parented, of loving and losing aren't tied up in easy answers or simple narratives, but are lifted up for what they are: the beloved brokenness where God's light and love get in."

Tara Owens, author of Embracing the Body

"Christians have not done well with the subject of mental illness. There is a great deal of stigma around the therapy process, calling people's struggles 'a lack of faith' or 'sin in their life.' This marvelous book courageously unveils the reality of psychological struggle even among people of faith, pointing us to the Jesus who keeps company with us in everything that is hard—a companion in sorrow. Thank you, Sharon, for this work that I predict will be healing to many."

James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful God

"In Shades of Light, Sharon Garlough Brown draws us once again into stories of faith amid suffering and hope even in the darkness. Christians face mental illness like everyone else, but too often they wrestle alone and ashamed. As we enter Wren's world of anxiety and depression, we are invited to join her muse Vincent van Gogh and the characters from the Sensible Shoes series as her 'companions in sorrow.' Sharon's unflinching and compassionate portrayal of that sacred fellowship reveals Christ himself is with us on the journey, sharing our tears and holding us in love."

Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, author of Glittering Vices

"Shades of Light is a beautiful, moving story filled with Sharon Garlough Brown's deep, spiritual insights. As a fan of artist Vincent van Gogh, I loved how the main characters, Wren and her mother, Jamie, drew from the faith of this 'companion in sorrow' as they faced the challenges of Wren's depression. Brown offers no pat answers to the questions raised by mental illness, but shows how joy and suffering are held in delicate balance through faith in the 'Man of Sorrows,' who is 'sorrowful but always rejoicing.' This is a powerful book, triumphant with hope."

Lynn Austin, author of Legacy of Mercy

"What a consolation this novel will be for those who have known the darkness! Too often church people approach mental illness with fear, simplistic theology, and useless spiritual bromides. By telling Wren's story, Sharon Garlough Brown instead gently welcomes us into a companionship of sorrow where we can glimpse the dark beauties of grace. There's bracing truth here about the stubbornness of mental illness, the spiritual and practical implications, the helpless ache of those who love but can't fix. But there's also beauty of soul, which emerges for readers through Wren's sensitive dwelling in the paintings and writings of Vincent van Gogh. And as we learn to dwell in Wren's world, to enter that circle of sorrow, we find at the center of it the compassionate, Gethsemane presence of Christ."

Debra Rienstra, professor of English at Calvin College, author of So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality

"Look for cameos by some of your favorite characters from the Sensible Shoes series in this quiet, honest story about the hallowing of the soul in its journey with Jesus through suffering. For anyone who has faced the darkness of depression or walked that road with a loved one, this is a beautiful, much-needed Christian vision of mental illness as both clinical (therefore treatable) and spiritual."

Sarah Arthur, Christianity Today fiction judge, author of A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L'Engle

"Brown's evocative prose . . . is both heartbreaking and enthralling. This emotionally harrowing story will appeal to fans of Karen Kingsbury."

Publishers Weekly

Read an Excerpt


Part 1: Even There
Part 2: Worn Out
Part 3: Keeping Watch
Part 4: Even the Darkness
Recommended Resources
List of Vincent van Gogh Works


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Sharon Garlough Brown

Sharon Garlough Brown is a spiritual director, speaker, and cofounder of Abiding Way Ministries, providing spiritual formation retreats and resources. She is the author of the bestselling Sensible Shoes Series, which includes spiritual fiction novels Sensible Shoes, Two Steps Forward, Barefoot, An Extra Mile, and their study guides.