I was contacted by Zondervan a few weeks ago offering a complimentary copy of the soon to be released book, The Color of Rain by Michael and Gina Spehn and was asked to review the book on my blog. The subtitle reads, "How two families found faith, hope, and love in the midst of tragedy". Sounded like it might be an encouraging book for someone in the midst of suffering, like myself, so I gladly accepted the offer.
It is the story of two young parents (Matt Kell and Cathy Spehn) who were childhood friends and lost their lives to cancer within 6 weeks of each other. In their grief, their spouses, who did not previously know each other, became friends sharing late night phone conversations and get-togethers with their 5 children. In the first few months following their spouses deaths, Michael and Gina fell in love and were later married, forming a "Brady Bunch" story of sorts.
The book is an easy read and is written from Michael and Gina's perspective with each author alternating chapters. I preferred Gina's writing style to Michael's as his was more "flowery" in my opinion. Unfortunately I found very little emphasis on faith like the subtitle emphasizes. God was mentioned and maybe Jesus a time or two, but their theology was weak as there was a poor understanding of God's sovereignty in suffering. Gina was stronger in her faith, but it was a sort of vague faith that seemed to be influenced by the thinking of this world. And Michael didn't seem to have a relationship with God at all until the end of the book, but it never really explained his conversion experience. Rather than the word of God and prayer they looked to "the spirit of their spouses" and physical signs, such as rainbows, to give them comfort in their grief and affirmation in their pursuit of life together.
There was actually very little emphasis on Michael and Gina's grief. It seemed to jump from the death of their spouses to their new found friendship and the comfort they found in one another. One of the things that bothered me most was that it took such a short time for them to move on to another relationship. Michael even said that in a few months time he felt "okay," even "normal". I have never lost a spouse and I pray I never do at such a young age, but it bothers me to think of my husband talking to another woman at my funeral, telling her that she was the only one he knew there because of their similar experiences and grief, like Michael did.
For someone who has suffered with pain and a loss of "normal" for almost 3 years and will very likely suffer much longer, this book offered me no hope, unlike the subtitle suggests. In fact, the way the Spehns portrayed their story made me feel like the death of a spouse would be much easier to endure than my current physical suffering. Yes, they grieved a little and missed their spouses, but they quickly found a new life and new love again. I can't just "move on" from my pain. It is a constant daily reminder that nothing in this world will ever satisfy us like Jesus. In this book I did not see a huge growth in Michael and Gina's faith during their suffering, and that disappointed me. I would think this book would be difficult to read if you suffered the death of a spouse and are still single and grieving 10 years later.
My husband reminded me that not every book can be about lifelong suffering, and I understand that that was not the point of this book. It was a very sweet story. I am glad Michael and Gina found love again and that Gina's boys have a father and Michael's daughter has a mother now. I am sure this book will be an encouragement to many people who have lost spouses. But I am disappointed because the Spehns had a huge opportunity to clearly display the gospel through their suffering and their book and, in my opinion, they didn't. Our human stories of suffering and "hope", no matter how good they may be, will never compare to THE story of unconditional love, forgiveness, and hope for this life and, most importantly, the life to come, which can only be found in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.