Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky is a story about making amends with one’s inner ghosts from the past. Marnie Wittier is a woman in her thirties who is haunted by her broken family and a loving would-be fiancée, Taylor Cole, whom she abandoned fifteen years ago out of fear and guilt. This storyline helps readers empathize because many people have experienced unfortunate situations and felt the regret of making a wrong decision. In the end Marnie realizes that she must give all her doubts and regrets to God. In that process she sees how relinquishing control can grant her many blessings. The book's plot is reflected in the verse, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your great kindness, in the fullness of your mercy blot out my offenses” (Psalm 51:1).
The structure of Shades of Morning consists of alternating third person viewpoints among Marnie, Taylor, and a Down Syndrome boy who also is involved in the plot. The author's style of writing among the characters is an attempt to create tension and intensity, but instead often comes across as a weak attempt at melodrama. Despite this, a few of the many flashbacks draw the reader into the plot by revealing the thought processes of the heroine.
Marnie Wittier is a strong-willed woman who prefers escape instead of confrontation. She is smart and loving toward everyone but herself and refuses to let go of her past. She relates to other characters in a clichéd but sweet way. They care for her, but she systematically refuses to see past her own pain. Schalesky tries to make Marnie someone who is easy to relate to, but she fails and, instead, writes a story about a character full of contradictions.
I was simply relieved when I finished the book. The characters were not dynamic, the writing was quite average, and the plot was artificially sweet. The storyline was too typical of Christian fiction. Yet, despite its shortcomings, the novel had a good biblical message about love, life, and forgiveness. This book would be the best for middle-aged Christian women looking for a somewhat sappy but well-intentioned story about reunited romance. – Giselle Gonzalez, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.
Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned.
As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?