This was my first experience reading a Natalie Walters novel and it was definitely a fun experience!
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.Heb. 6:19-20
The first part of Hebrews 6:19 is quoted in the text, and lays the groundwork for the key spiritual theme. I added verse twenty for context about that hope, although the context isn’t discussed in the book. (It’s more about trusting God, without specific emphasis on Jesus.)
The major spiritual theme is trusting in God and, although it wasn’t introduced until about 60% in, there were some really strong, meaningful statements mixed in. (I’ll hold off on direct quotes because I think they’re more powerful in context.)
I think there’s just enough spiritual content to offend a non-Christian (which, honestly, I take as a good sign haha) who is offended by Christian content. As a Christian reader, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more 🙂
What I Liked
The plot was well-paced— not only due to the amount of action, but also because of the mixture of POVs. While many of the chapters alternate between the protagonists’ perspectives, there are also occasional segments through the eyes of secondary characters. This contributed to the mystery and intrigue, while also livening up the plot line. I don’t often see this combination of perspectives, but I feel that Walters pulls it off really well. I would definitely say that this strategy added to, rather than detracting from, the plotline.
The characters were believable. I especially enjoyed Kekoa and his dialogue. Kekoa is Hawaiian and his lines are peppered with dialect. As someone who doesn’t know the language, I felt that the lines read very realistically, like a real person talking. It didn’t feel like “now I will throw in a Hawaiian word.” His lines really flowed, and in that sense I think he was the most “real” character, to me.
Likewise, the action elements were believable and felt realistic. I really hadn’t given a lot of thought about what it would mean to work for an intelligence agency, where so many people’s lives are at stake and the job’s commitments go so much further than a basic 9-5. Although it’s a work of fiction, I feel like Lights Out gave me a glimpse into this world. As Hannibal (an author I really enjoy) says, the “details [are] so real you have to wonder who she’s really working for.”
In a similar vein, I did appreciate the insight that Jack sheds on Brynne’s commitment to her career. He’s concerned about her willingness to risk her life for her job— not because she’s a woman and he’s a man, but because she’s not taking care of herself.
This is a comparatively “clean” novel. In fact, it might be considered quite clean, by some standards. There isn’t a lot of kissing, but there is a bit of build-up in anticipation of kissing, as well as occasional mentions of the physical attraction.
There’s also some discussion of physical chemistry with one of the characters being described as kissing “like a brother,” but I’d say the discussion was pretty clean.
One thing I did appreciate with regards to the romantic content was a brief discussion about what love is— not just physical attraction, but paying attention to the details of what makes your partner happy. Jack recalls his father brewing tea for his mom every morning and his mom stocking his dad’s favorite chips during baseball season.
The book is about terrorism and there are quite a few deaths, but the violence isn’t graphic.
There was one part that raised a red flag for me, when Brynne is praying for “an anchor” in an extremely intense situation. When Jack appears and she looks into his eyes, she “fe[els] that God is giving her an anchor in the chaos…”.
When I first read this line, the alarm bells were going off when I read the sentence, because it sounded to me like a person was being described as an anchor. After re-reading the scene a few times, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt that she is referring to the person as being a symbol of hope in that moment (And it’s developed a bit more clearly, later on).With that said, I’m very wary of Christian books that put the romantic interest in God’s place (or reference the romantic interest in a verse about God). All this to say, I don’t think the author is trying to make an idolatrous point, but I do have a problem with that specific line and think that it could have been written differently to avoid that ambiguity.
This is not quite a book I would recommend without reservation. With that said, I’d feel pretty fine recommending the book, with knowledge of the above disclaimers (especially the anchor thing). Overall, this was a really fun book to read and I am intrigued to see what happens next.