“A Light in the Desert” by Anne Montgomery
Paperback, 286 pages
Published Nov. 6, 2018, by Treehouse Publishing/Amphorae Publishing Group (first published May 27, 2015)
A Vietnam veteran struggling with mental illness, a pregnant teen with a facial deformity and a group of religious zealots are thrown onto a backdrop of the Arizona desert in 1995. It’s in this environment where a passenger train is intentionally derailed, and law enforcement and media descend to try and determine what happened.
Amid the chaos, the pregnant girl — who was on board the train — disappears. While authorities are searching for her, the veteran becomes determined to save both the girl and himself.
This book was based on the actual derailment of the Sunset Limited, a crime that remains unsolved to this day. It’s an interesting premise for a work of fiction. I found the main characters — Jason Ramm, Kelly Garcia and the members of the Children of Light — to be very unique and yet all the same in that they are on the fringes of society. And it is because of this that they cling to one another, knowing that the world at large doesn’t understand them and seems afraid of them.
I heard of this book through an email I received from the author, because I read her previous book “The Scent of Rain.” “A Light in the Desert” didn’t speak to me as strongly, mainly because the story seemed so choppy and confusing at times, but I admired the characters. I felt real empathy and concern for Ramm and Kelly. I also felt afraid of Ramm because of the very fact that, like most people, I didn’t understand exactly what was going on with him. As for Kelly, I just kept wanting her to be OK and for her and her baby to end up happy and healthy.
I could take or leave the secondary characters, the reporter Kate Butler and the sheriff’s deputy, Joe Cooper. But they were important to the story because they helped unravel many of the details behind the investigation.
The way the book wound up was satisfying and yet unnerving (in a good way). The ending felt a bit abrupt, but maybe that’s a good thing in this case. Whether everything turns out OK for Kelly, Ramm and the Children of Light is for me to know and you to find out.
If you’re looking for a redemption story that is gritty and compelling, look no further than “A Light in the Desert.”
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Montgomery teaches journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix and is a foster mom to three sons. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, football officiating, scuba diving, musical theater, and playing her guitar. Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, was awarded a 2018 Bronze Medal for Best Regional Fiction/West-Mountain at the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Her novel A Light in the Desert will be released on November 6, 2018. Nothing But Echoes is slated for publication in the spring of 2019. You can learn more about Montgomery at her website, https://annemontgomerywriter.com.