An impossible decision in the chaos of D-Day. Ripples that cascade seventy-five years into the present. And two lives transformed by the tenuous resolve to reach out of the darkness toward fragments of light.
Cancer stole everything from Ceelie—her peace of mind, her self-image, perhaps even her twenty-three-year marriage to her college sweetheart, Nate. Without the support of Darlene, her quirky elderly friend, she may not have been able to endure so much loss.
So when Darlene’s prognosis turns dire, Ceelie can’t refuse her seemingly impossible request—to find a WWII paratrooper named Cal, the father who disappeared when Darlene was an infant, leaving a lifetime of desolation in his wake.
The search that begins in the farmlands of Missouri eventually leads Ceelie to a small town in Normandy, where she uncovers the harrowing tale of the hero who dropped off-target into occupied France.
Alternating between Cal’s D-Day rescue by two young French sisters and Ceelie’s present-day journey through trial and heartbreak, Fragments of Light poses a timeless question: When life becomes unbearable, will you press toward the light or let the darkness win?
Typically, I enjoy the historical portions of split-time novels the most, but I didn’t feel the same bias as I read this story. While I thought Nate’s pronouncement on the day Ceelie rang the bell to signal the end of her cancer treatments was egregious, I held out hope that their twenty-three-year marriage would endure the storm. The other aspect of the modern-day storyline that I loved was the friendship between Darlene and Ceelie. Every woman needs a gnome collecting, purple car driving, cotton-candy haired older woman to tell it to her straight! As for the historical timeline, readers who enjoy an unfolding mystery rife with history will not be disappointed.
In order to fully appreciate this story, you have to be willing to wade through some deep emotional waters before you can pass safely to the other side. This is especially true if you know someone who is fighting cancer. Can anyone say their life has been unaffected by cancer? Even if the diagnosis was not your own, you’ve likely prayed or cared for someone who has undergone treatment. Perhaps you’ve even lost someone dear to you, as have I. The prevalence of cancer, as well as the toll it takes on families and friends, will drive the experiences these characters endure home for many readers. Understanding that Phoenix is a three-time cancer survivor herself will further illuminate how she was able to convey their hopes and fears in such a palpable way.
The book’s themes of regret, resentment, and forgiveness—leading to restoration— make it well worth your investment of time. I’ve read 56 books so far this year and Fragments of Light distinguishes itself a standout title! It earns a “2020 Book Club Top Pick” from me.