Review – Becoming Starlight by Sharon Prentice, PhD

A few months ago, I was contacted and asked to review a book about a Shared Death Experience (SDE). Honestly, I was a little leery. I had to do some research on the author and on the concept of SDE before I would commit to a book about it. But I do enjoy learning and experiencing new things through books, so eventually I agreed.

I was so excited when it came in the mail, I set it on my nightstand and made it my priority to read next. And then the end of the semester happened. Very quickly October became December, somehow along the way, I had been pulled under a deluge of papers to grade, lessons to plan, concerts to play, and functions to attend. Do you notice something very important missing in that list?

That’s right. Reading. I have had a very large book-shaped hole in my life since October, being so consumed with work that I have not been able to read anything, save for what we have been reading for school.

So now that we are on Christmas break, I am finally able to pick up the books I’ve fallen behind on and read them. Which is great, because I was one book away from meeting my reading goal in Goodreads for the year. After finishing this book, I have met my Goodreads goal, and I still have a week left to read more books!

The Shared Death Experience (SDE). Most people know of or know someone who has experienced a Near Death Experience (NDE), but very few have heard of the SDE. The SDE is similar to the NDE except that it occurs not to the person who is dying, but to their loved one who is physically well. That person could be sitting right next to their loved one, or sitting across the room, or even across the globe unaware of the impending death of someone they love. Location or activity level is of no consequence to the SDE. That person, the loved one, is “invited along” to witness the aftermath of physical death. The invitation extended has no RSVP–the person accompanying the dying individual can neither accept nor refuse–they are just “taken” or “given” the experience by powers outside of their control. Becoming Starlight is one of those stories. 

Something I’ve realized in my reading as of late is I really love memoirs. I really love reading other people’s stories told as they experienced them. I love when a person tells their story as it needs to be told. I loved The Burn Zone for that very reason.

And that is the reason I chose to read this book. It’s a person’s experience. It’s told from the perspective of somebody who has gone through experiences I’ve never had. Becoming Starlight offers me insight into a world I don’t know.

Becoming Starlight: A Shared Death Journey from Darkness to Light is not quite a book about a SDE, as the cover may imply. When I first opened this book, I expected the immediate tone of this book to be framed by the SDE, but it wasn’t. It opened with the story of a woman and a man who fell in love, unlikely bedfellows, as the chapter title states. The following pages were not the sad story of a woman experiencing death secondhand, but the story of a couple and their life together.

Prentice tells the story of love and loss and heartbreak and healing. She tells of difficult pregnancies and illness and family. Prentices tells the story of life within the pages of Becoming Starlight. The anecdotes peppered throughout–of her growing up, of her family, of the people who surrounded her and enveloped her in love–were so touching and beautiful.

I listen to music while I read; I always have. While I was reading a particularly beautiful section about Prentice baking with her grandmother, “Deep in the Fescue Meadow” by Annie Moses Band played through my Echo. It’s such a lovely song, if you’ve never heard it, and complimented the story so beautifully that I was transported into another world, a nearly-better-than-believeable world with pies in windowsills and picket fences and matching smiles all around. It was such a touching experience that I will never be able to recreate, but that I am thankful for nonetheless.

As beautiful as this book is, though, it is equally dark and heavy. While there are stories of love and beauty, there are just as many tales of woe and anguish. From lost pregnancy to unidentifiable disease, Becoming Starlight is the story of a woman who questions salvation, of a survivor fighting to reason Eternal Love with temporal suffering.

Those are the parts that spoke to my heart. While I have never lost anybody the way Prentice has, I have experienced my own loss. In January, my uncle and cousin died on the same day, under unrelated circumstances. I know that question, that “if God exists, why do we suffer this way?” I know that constant wonder of “what have I done to deserve this pain?”

“Sooner or later, the fairy dust of childhood wears off and we lose our fairy wings–they become useless appendages.”

There is sometihng about the pain of adulthood that speaks to everybody. There’s something about losing our fairy dust that makes us all connect to Prentice’s story. She claims that growing up sneaks in on you and you wish desperately to unlearn all the awful things adulthood teaches you. And I could not agree more.

What spoke to me most was Prentice’s response to the sentiment that “God will take the first step in our return to Him.” She questions who she would want to return to Him. She questions what God could possibly have in store for her after He’d taken everything else away. And that question resonates with me unendingly.

What also resonates with me unendingly, though, he Prentice’s return to God with a greater passion, a stronger zeal, a bigger love for God. Becoming Starlight truly is the story of somebody broken and put back together, gilded with gold, made stronger and more beautiful. And that is a story I can definitely stand behind.

Plucky’s rating?

4 out of 5 stars.

The Plucky Reader

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