The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Trigger Warnings: Depression, Self Harm, Mental Illness, War, Suicidal Tendencies.
This was such a strange read for me. When I began reading this book, I was reminded instantly of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and all the siblings on their journey through the woods and into another world. There were the talking animals and the siblings looking to escape from a war torn world to anywhere else. Even the time spent in the woodlands only to return back to their old lives as if nothing had happened, it all seemed so familiar to our old stories of Narnia. But then as I was waiting for the adventure to take off and get lost in this other world with these characters and talking animals I was really let down to find out that this is not what this story is about. The Light Between Worlds is just that, a story about a girl stuck with one foot in each world, and her struggle to stay where she thinks she belongs while her heart is another world away.
The story is told in two halves. The first from the perspective of Evelyn, the youngest of the three siblings. Evaline is struggling with the fact that she has lived a whole life in another world only to be thrown back into the world we know in the midst of World War II. She feels like she doesn’t belong here having grown up the first time in a woodland with talking animals in a castle by the sea. Here she is just poor, strange Ev, the girl who spends her time pulling thistles from the school garden and wandering through the woods just outside of school grounds. She struggles so much with wanting to try and please all those who care about her and tries to fit in, but even try as she might, she can’t fight that her heart will always be in another world. She spent too much time growing up in the Woodlands to be thrown back into her life in the world we know to ever be able to separate her two lives. She feels like her sister Philippa tricked her into returning before she was ready, not that she would have ever been fully ready to leave the life she had come to love so much. The closest that Ev comes to finding a place here and truly enjoying her life away from the Woodlands is when she meets a boy that her brother introduces her to. But in the end even love might not be enough to keep her here.
The second part of the story is told from the perspective of the middle sibling, Philippa. She and their older brother Jamie weren’t quite as young as Ev was when they entered the Woodland and so they kept hope that one day they would return home to the world they knew and grew up in, while Ev had resigned herself to living in the Woodlands forever. Philippa has been her sister’s keeper ever since returning in the midst of a war and she has her work cut out for her. Constantly on watch to make sure that her little sister doesn’t harm herself, or run off in search of a way back to the Woodlands, Philippa doesn’t have much a life of her own anymore. So when she finally makes something of herself and gets a chance to go to school in the US, she takes it. But while she is away Evelyn goes missing and so she must return home to help find what has happened to her little sister.
While this story is full of beautiful writing and big topics that tug on your emotions, it is also full of a lot of the struggles between family members and these siblings as they try to help out Evelyn and her battle with her mental illness. Depression is no joke and this story doesn’t take it lightly. I found that this was a really heavy topic to discuss in what was portrayed as a fantasy book about traveling between worlds, and when I found out that I wouldn’t actually get to read much about the fantasy aspect I was definitely a little put off. Don’t get me wrong, its important to discuss all types of mental illnesses and to portray the struggles that everyone goes through when one person is suffering is a powerful topic to cover, but when a book is advertised in more of a fantasy setting it is a big difference than what was expected. I wanted more of an adventure, and maybe if I had read more of their time in the Woodlands, then I could relate to why Evelyn struggled with leaving better. I wanted to know more about the backstory rather than the constant inner monologue of the characters while they went through one hardship after another. And because of this, the book almost took on a depression quality that had me sad and heartbroken for these poor kids who had been through so much, only to lose more.
By the end of this book, I was not only sad but felt cheated. Like I was promised a magical world but left with one in ruins. This is a book you need to know what you’re dealing with before getting into because you really need to prepare your heart for the amount of breaking its about to undergo. There is a strong message to be learned though, and the bond of siblings and the strength of family to admire. I think that had I known what I was about to read I could have been better prepared to barrel my way through this one with a lighter heart and more of an understanding as to what to expect. But since I didn’t it threw me off in a way that left me feeling unsatisfied with the portrayal of this story. I wanted more of the fantasy and magic, and less of the heartbreak and struggle. I would definitely be interested in reading this author’s other books because she did have a beautiful writing style and I found that it wasn’t difficult to read, but more so just difficult to not feel all the emotions that this book brought out in me. But in a sense that is what books are meant to do, make us feel things, and the stronger the feelings the better the writing. So in that sense she did a fantastic job! I couldn’t help but want to save Evelyn from her struggles and help Philippa untie herself from the constant need to look after her sister. But in the end, there is a lesson to be learned and you can’t get there without the hardships.
If you liked this book:
If you are looking for that Narnia vibe of an other worldly adventure look no further than The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. The Hazel Wood takes you on a little bit of a different journey than The Light Between Worlds. In The Hazel Wood you experience more of the actual journey to another land and all the interesting people met along the way, where as in The Light Between Worlds you experience this more in the after effect of how to deal with the experiences that were encountered in this strange journeys. Both have a very whimsical yet dark feel that goes beyond the woods and into the deepest darkest parts of the forest. Enjoy, but don’t forget how to find your way back out!
Do you ever find yourself reading a book and its not at all what you thought it was about? Do you continue on with it, or quit right there? Do you like books that tackle tough subjects like depression and suicide? For me, reading is an escape so I tend to stay away from books that handle darker topics like that, but I understand the importance of why they need to be written, its just hard to read about. I’m really curious to know what you all think!