Right/wrong, not so black/white

Here it is, folks, the place to buy Light in Darkest Days.  I am excited for people to read this story.  It has occurred to me, as people ask me, “What’s it about?” that I haven’t yet described the book, so here goes.

This is a story that manifested itself from my previous work in the criminal justice system, mixed with my own observations of the way humans related to each other.  When I worked as a probation and parole officer, and later as a commissioner in the city jail and courthouse, I was intrigued by the people who were characterized as “criminals.” Sitting across a desk from a thief, a drug dealer, or even a murderer, and having them cry and explain how and why they did what they did puts a human face on “bad behavior” in a way few of us get to see.  I remember the young man who stole a car and sat in the jail’s intake room explaining to me how he wanted to “borrow” the vehicle briefly to go get diapers for his new baby. He wept like a little child, being only 17 years old and facing a felony charge for driving a stolen vehicle approximately 6 blocks to the grocery store.  I felt like something didn’t add up, that this young man could face years in prison for bad judgment he used for about 10 minutes in his short life.

Being in this “system” made me think about how we characterize people by their actions.  People that stay out of jail, pay their bills, work a regular job, are “good people” while those that steal, become unemployed, use drugs are “bad people.” There always seemed to be more to it than that.  I felt like our system punished actions with such a broad stroke, that it left out any room for consideration for who did the action, and why.

I am an attorney now, and I understand motive, and how it’s used in the system.  But regardless of the legal fine line between manslaughter and murder 2nd, there is a deeper human question here., questions I ask when I think about “bad people” or “doing bad things.”

Could there be a comparison between the second it takes someone to decide to steal a car to buy diapers and the second it takes for someone to pull a knife and stab someone?  Could a “good person” do a really bad thing and still be good?  Could we/the reader care for a character who makes a really, really bad choice?  Could the protagonist be a likable murderer? What is punishment and why do we do it?

In Light in Darkest Days, Tim Rutger kills his wife and writes his story from prison, in diary form.  The murder of his wife is told to the reader up front, there is no mystery of “did he really do it?”  He did do it.  He murdered his wife.  But the person he is as a whole, the entire humanness of Tim Rutger, murderer, is told slowly, showing that this “good” man did a really terrible thing, and that he’s being punished in a way beyond anything the “system” could inflict.  The story, I hope, calls us to question judgment, condemnation, and punishment.  My hope is the reader will start to feel compassion for Tim, and then say, “Wait, I’m supposed to hate him,” and then say, “but wait, I can hate the sin, but not the sinner.”


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