Three Books on a Theme: Light Out of Darkness

A memoir, a true crime, and a novel. What these books have in common is that each one goes to dark places and finds the light and hope within them.

Submitted by Naomi

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Harold Fry learns that an old friend he hasn't spoken to in 20 years is in hospice care and nearing the end of her life. Becoming convinced that only hand-delivering a letter to her can save her, he sets out on a six-hundred-mile walk to reach her. Hiking across the English countryside, the book is full of lush bucolic descriptions that will fill you with your own urge to set out on a long journey and see where the road takes you.

But as Harold nears his destination, we slowly learn more about his family and the broken things we don't always see in others. There are parts in the book that will likely leave you weeping, but it also shows the indelible, unforgettable strength of kindness, and acts of selfless love, that expect and desire nothing in return.

The Wicked Boy

In 1895, two boys are arrested for the murder of their mother. The elder of the two, 13-year-old Robert Coombes, ends up confessing and being sent to Broadmoor, a criminal lunatic asylum. The book covers the crime, the days before the discovery, the trial and the way it caught the attention of the public. But it doesn’t end on this bleak note, rather it continues to follow Robert through his time at Broadmoor, his eventual release, and follows his steps through his immigration to Australia, his service as a stretcher-bearer in the First World War, and the lives he touched and how a family came to view him as a symbol for the goodness in humanity.

The Wicked Boy is more than a true crime book. It is a story of redemption, compassion, and empathy. It shows the layers and complexities in each of us, refuses to accept that anyone is simply ‘wicked’, and Summerscale treats her subject with kindness and wisdom.

The Hiding Place

In this memoir, Ten Boom recounts the story of her family in the Netherlands during World War II and how they made room in their home to hide Jews from the Nazis at great personal risk and sacrifice. Covering some of the darkest days of human history and darkest experiences, the book does not shy away from showing man's shocking indifference and shocking cruelty to his fellow man. But it also shows the shocking love and forgiveness humanity can show to one another, as well as the resilience and inner strength we are capable of.