Out of the Shadows

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After suffering a devastating loss, 28-year-old Jamie Shire finds herself merely going through the motions of day-to-day life. With no money and no job, only the couches of sympathetic friends serve as a bed. And there is the always present ache of emptiness in her womb where her baby girl once grew. But a violent physical attack changed Jamie’s future forever. A quick drive to collect her thoughts brings Jamie to Sonoma, located in the wine country of Northern California, and to the door of a mysterious woman who offers Jamie a job and a new life.

Kimberly Carlson’s Out of the Shadows delves deep into the mind of a woman holding on for dear life as she recovers from a horrific experience and discovers that life does, indeed, go on. At its core, Carlson’s book is about forging ahead despite the past and finding promise in the future. Jamie’s new job seems simple. Her boss, Akasha, asks her to research “needy spots, needy people.” Once Jamie has narrowed down which humanitarian causes and non-government organizations she thinks deserves funding, Akasha will write a check. Jamie dives headfirst into researching atrocities occurring in places like Afghanistan, Chad, Iraq, and Sudan. If readers aren’t aware of the deplorable actions of Dafur’s Janjaweed (the Sudanese-funded militia), they certainly will be after reading this moving book. Jamie’s research also sheds light on humanitarian organizations in need of support, such as Doctors Without Borders, the World Food Programme, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Ultimately, Jamie decides that she can’t make a fully informed decision until she visits refugee camps abroad. From the flowering grounds of Fallow Springs Estate to the sandy streets of Chad, readers get a true sense of where Jamie has been and where she is headed. Each location feels like a unique character in the story.

Jamie struggles with the idea that her pain is somehow less than that of the refugees or rape victims she has read about during the course of her research. It is safe to assume that many victims of violence compare their suffering and pain with others at some point. This is only human nature. But, at times, Jamie’s constant comparisons and self-doubt can be quite uncomfortable for the reader. Why is her suffering any less painful or valid? War crimes and domestic abuse cannot, and should not, be compared, but the pain experienced is a shared experience and cannot be diminished in either case.

Jamie interprets the events of her life with the eye of a motion picture director. She has always turned to film when life can’t provide the answers. But, as a result, she is even more removed from her own thoughts and actions as she filters her experiences in relation to films. Only until she steps completely out of her comfort zone and challenges herself through research and travel is she able to discover her potential. Readers witness Jamie’s transformation from a numb, empty, angry, desperate, confused girl into a determined, confident woman with a renewed sense of purpose, passion and zest for life.

In her inspiring debut novel, Carlson challenges readers to ask themselves what they are passionate about and how they can communicate that with the world. Is it enough to just write a check? With advocacy comes great responsibility. Carlson is active with many humanitarian causes, including Amnesty International, Genocide No More, and Save Darfur.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 395 pages
Publisher First Snow Publishing House
Publish Date 02-May-2012
ISBN 9780984991808
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue July 2013
Category Modern Literature


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