by Erin Theresa Welsh
The Brutally Beautiful Complexity of Friendships
Review: The Light Source
Erin Theresa Welsh
7.13 Books pp.221
Cost: $12.80 (paperback)
Relationships, no matter what type, are complex. Society sees friendships as one of the strongest relationships that can be established, and romantic relationships are one of the more challenging and delicate things to be a part of. Either way, both seem to be crucially important to human culture, and both tend to have a strong impact on an individual’s life.
Kim Magowan’s novel, The Light Source, is an interestingly realistic and compelling perspective on creating, maintaining, and destroying relationships over a lifetime. Each chapter is a whirlwind of new perspectives and opinions from each character and helps the audience get to know them personally and understand them more. Magowan writes the entire book split into the perspectives of seven of the main characters while the chapters jump through time to give the audience a well-rounded view of the same event surrounding each friend. Though it has a lot of back and forth throughout time and perspectives, it sticks to the main topic of Heather and Julie’s friendship and, eventually, their romantic relationship and how every character’s life ends up panning out. It is like a butterfly effect of one person’s actions or reactions causing a difference in another’s life and eventual outcome.
The story begins with a group of close twenty-something-year-old friends meeting together for the first time in a while. Two of the friends, Julie and Heather, get into an outlandish argument over Julie being engaged. Julie is dedicated to her relationship and disregards Heather’s comments, but within this first chapter of the book, the audience is already thrown into the complicated nature of these friendships that end up spanning until they are fully into adulthood. Over time, readers learn about the underlying aspects of Heather and Julie’s relationship as friends, enemies, and lovers. Readers steadily learn more about the two and what has been going on in their lives through the eyes of friends, and even children, over several decades.
Having each chapter reflect on a different character’s point of view on one situation is beneficial to the reader because it expands one instance into a few years showing several people impacted by the consequences and interactions. In The Light Source, we get to experience each moment of these complex and sensitive relationships through the perspectives of others who have issues and are flawed themselves. This approach is successful because the reader gets different opinions, beliefs, and ways to view each character. The characters view each other differently which adds to the unfolding of the plot. In one chapter from Heather’s perspective, she believes Julie is angry at her and will never want to see her again after the betrayal. Then, in another chapter from Julie’s point-of-view, the reader sees the other complicated feelings Julie has for Heather that span from love to hatred. Magowan creates a brutally realistic world in which not everything goes as planned or like someone might want it to, but where everything happens for a reason. Every character involved has their purpose and every action and moment makes a difference in the lives of these characters we grow to love as we continue reading.
This book doesn’t just give one character the benefit of the doubt or make another character inevitably perfect throughout, but instead gives the audience an honest revelation of how people are and what they regret--and perhaps this is why I enjoyed reading it so much. Nobody in this story is perfect or does everything right. There are so many moments the reader is baffled by actions in certain moments, but it is relatable. It is the realism--the accuracy of how each character thinks and what they do--that makes this book so engaging. This novel is a modern take on relationships and the internal and external struggles one has to face when creating and finalizing them.
The Light Source continually reminds us it is hard to define ‘love’ with one word, one phrase, or one action. Love could be something you feel for someone as a friend or as something more than that. It also enlightens us with the idea that in order to find that true happiness with someone you might love, a person needs to make sacrifices and it might not always end happily. This book shows the brokenhearted moments people create as well as the power that forgiveness and understanding can have. It is the epitome of the brutal beauty of relationships and evolving from past mistakes.