Review: Luminous Dark

Most of us will at some point experience the death of a loved one or another cataclysmic loss in our lives—it’s a universal experience we are usually unprepared for.  Luminous Dark is a book to read before that happens, written by a young pastor who watched his 23-year-old wife die of a fast-growing cancer.  He waited ten years to write the book, during which time he became aware that ‘people do not know how to grieve, as no one had taught them how to wrestle with pain, how to stare darkness in the eye, how to discover permission to laugh again.’

Most of us will at some point experience the death of a loved one or another cataclysmic loss in our live … Luminous Dark is a book to read before that happens.

Alain Emerson has written a beautiful and instructive memoir on his journey through grief.  It’s instructive because he tells his story very honestly with great vulnerability.  He doesn’t quote platitudes like ‘lean into the pain’ without telling you exactly what that looked like for him.  He tells of the early days of trying not to let grief destroy him, finding a way to lament and protest through the Psalms.  He opens his journal from those days, full of raw emotion.  He tells the entire story of his journey through that dark night of the soul, that luminous dark, that led to new life and a much deeper faith.

Luminous Dark is filled with sound theology, the theology of the cross—death, burial, resurrection.  It is filled with the wisdom of the ancients as well as modern-day prophets and mystics.  It is a book filled with hope, one I will be recommending again and again, and will return to myself.  I’ve not read a better book on this topic since C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.

Luminous Dark


When young pastor and 24-7 Prayer leader Alain Emerson lost his twenty-three-year-old wife to cancer, his once firm faith seemed to crumble. In this profound exploration of loss, Alain retraces his journey through the stages of grief, choosing to lean into the pain and to face God with his disappointment. He emerges with a stronger and deeper faith, and a sense of having seen God’s face – the one who ultimately restores our joy.

Buy this book

About the Author

Peri Zahnd lives with her husband, Brian, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Together they pastor Word of Life Church. They have three adult sons and five grandchildren. She is author of Every Scene By Heart: A Camino de Santiago Memoir.

Great! We've added that to your basket.

Continue browsing Go to basket