Stepping Into Sunlight by Sharon Hinck is the story of Penny Sullivan, who, just after a move to a new town and just before her husband’s deployment as a Navy Chaplain, witnesses a horrific crime and a threat to her own life. Though trying to assure her near and extended family that everything is fine, she begins to suffer nightmares and panic attacks. With her husband away and no new friends or church yet, she has no support system, and she is reluctant to take it to the Lord because of the lingering question: Where was He when this happened, and why didn’t He prevent it?
She tries to put a brave face on things so that no one will worry about her and so that she can take care of the young son who depends on her, but she finds herself increasing afraid and unable to take up even the ordinary tasks of life.
Help comes in various ways: a nosy, advice-giving neighbor, a DVD she discovers of message her husband made for her, a quirky couple who run a little mission church nearby, and a support group she eventually makes herself attend. Thinking her usual planning and goal-making skills will help pull her out of the quagmire she is in, she lists several things to do, one of which is “Penny’s Project,” an attempt to do one kind thing for someone each day.
I have to admit when I first read that idea, I cringed a little. It brought up images of the Boy Scout doing his good deed for the day helping a little old lady across the street (whether she wants him to or not) rather than a lifestyle or character of kindness. But the more I got into the story, the more it made sense. Penny discovers that, with grocery store delivery, ordering things she needs online, and even online discussion forums, she can almost function from her home without interacting with others, and this project is her baby-steps attempt to extend herself beyond her four walls and her own problems. It is not a bad goal in itself: how many of us miss opportunities to exercise kindness because we’re not actively seeking them?
If you have ever suffered panic attacks, you’ll find realistic portrayals of them in this book. If you know someone who suffers them, you’ll understand a little more what they are going through in this book. Sharon always writes realistically (even in her fantasy books, the characters, feelings, and struggles are very true-to-life) and draws you into the heart of the character while providing unexpected pockets of humor throughout. I highly recommend this book.