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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Girl of Light & Shadow: A Memoir of My Daughter, Who Killed Herself by Jay E. Valusek is the non-fiction inspirational memoir that revolves around the tragic, unexpected death of the author's child Elissa and the incredible journey of discovery that it invoked. One would normally consider a young woman who worked in the Peace Corps community as unclouded in purpose and outlook, or who growing up seemed to have such a grasp on her personal agency that in the 7th grade she'd change her name from Beth to Elissa. But all from the outside was not as it appeared and following a series of events and deep personal losses, Elissa made the decision that this world and this life were not for her. In the aftermath, her father, Valusek, throws himself into trying to piece together what happened and finds an astonishing network of otherworldly markers.
It's important for readers to approach Girl of Light & Shadow with an open mind. If one is willing and able to do this, the story that Jay E. Valusek retells is not just enlightening, but the type of compassionate message that will give those of us who have also lost in a similar fashion a large dose of hope. Hope that there is more to this life than we know. Hope that there is more out there that we don't know. Hope that those we love are with us indefinitely, and not only in the ways that we've been spoon-fed by religious leaders with vague assurances that they are 'looking down on us'. Valusek, first and foremost, started as an academic. I am reminded of my father who, when asked what his religion is, answers 'academia'. This is why what Valusek reveals feels extremely authentic and, frankly, one hundred percent believable. I'm not going to give the whole shop away at once, but I'm happy to provide a message for readers who are skeptical of Valusek's discovery from one of the more incredible parts of the book: Go to hell. And yes, he means that literally. Very highly recommended.