Cover image for Passing into light
Passing into light
Foster, Sharon Ewell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Sisters, Or. : Multnomah, [2002]

Physical Description:
334 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The characters that readers loved in Riding Through Shadows are at it again! Mother and Ma Dear, Tony Taylor, and others are back to make readers laugh and cry. Readers of this sequel will find troubling mysteries resolved: Does Sheri exist outside of Shirley Ferris' imagination? What was in Shirley's letter and who was it from? This story, told through the life of a grieving single parent, shows how we can recover from past failures and find our way to sustained love and joy.

Author Notes

Sharon Ewell Foster is a single mother of two, a former Defense Department employee, and an expert trainer and public speaker, making her home in Maryland. She also writes devotionals for Daily Guideposts and for the soon-to-be-released Women of Color Devotional Bible.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this much-improved sequel to Riding Through Shadows, Foster gives her loyal evangelical Christian audience glimpses of African-American life, faith and romance that helped forge her reputation in Passing by Samaria and Ain't No River. Shirley Ferris-Mills and her two children shake the red clay dust of Alabama off their feet and head for California, where the widowed Shirley hopes to craft a new life. They detour to Tyler, Tex., to drop off Windy, a pregnant white teenage shoplifter they picked up along the way, and to visit Mother Johnson, who cared for Shirley as a child. Shirley's old prom date, Tony Taylor, soon discovers she's in town, and romance seems imminent. But first, Shirley must make peace with her past, which sends her on yet another quest. "It could be, baby, that what's going on in your life now is less about starting over than it is about finishing the race that you've started to run," says the wise Mother Johnson. There are some significant improvements over the novel's predecessor: the dark demonic angel is gone, and with the exception of some flashbacks, the time frame remains firmly in the present, creating a smoother read. A few structural troubles continue to dog the Christy Award-winning Foster, who includes some preachy passages and problematic names. However, this novel generally offers the good writing and wise insights Foster is known for, and her fans will enjoy this story of love, prayer, and healing. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Huntsville, Alabama, 1986 It was stupid to run, but it was stupid to stay. The silver Toyota Corolla clipped down the road past dried brown grass, wooden fences, and green leafed trees. Shirley was making good time and had long since kissed Highway 55 good-bye. Her kids were curled up in each other's arms-at least as much as the seat belts would allow-sleeping and drooling. She glanced at them in the rearview mirror. Mika's hot-pink leg warmers matched her pink spandex, knee-length shorts and her pink sleeveless T-shirt, all topped by a gray sweatshirt that hung off one shoulder. A hot-pink and day-glo-green headband held most of her hair out of her face, except for the thick upturned bangs that had escaped. Honey-colored Mika looked like the actress from Flashdance had collided with Cyndi Lauper. Girls just want to have fun. Shirley shook her head. She didn't remember fashion being such a big deal when she was in the fourth grade. Lex, a deeper brown than his sister, had one Adidas tennis shoe on, the other was in the rear window next to an empty juice box. His head full of curly-kinky hair was smashed flat on one side where he had been lying. One leg of his bright blue nylon tracksuit had crept up over his bony knee. Slobber had made a dark trail on the yellow, blue, and green panels of his lightweight jacket. And the collar was up; even in his sleep, little Lexington managed to keep his collar up. How could a little kid know so much about collars and stuff? Shirley let herself smile. Fashion sense must run in the family-she looked briefly at her gray sweatpants and plain red cotton T-shirt-just not on her side. They would cross through Tuscaloosa soon, and Shirley's plan was to drive straight across Texas. California was going to mean a brand new life. She patted the brown envelope on the seat next to her. Thank you, God. It was their seed money to get settled in the New World. Alabama was behind them. The money was all they had. That and too many memories tied with pink ribbon. The ribbon-tied bundle was full of letters, papers, and pictures. There were pictures of the kids, of Danny, of the whole family together. There was a letter from her uncles, and tied in the same bundle were discharge papers, even an envelope from her husband's memorial service-some things the guys thought she should have-that she had never been able to open. All of it was tied together with pink ribbon. And the funny thing was, she didn't own anything else that was pink. It was time to move forward. Mother Johnson had never seen the kids. And Shirley knew Mika and Lex would love her. Mother had been on Shirley's mind, but Tyler, Texas, was the doorway to too many memories. It was the best thing for them-for her and the kids-to go to California. Mika and Lex would be happy there. They could get a new start in a place where no one knew them, where there wouldn't be any questions. Maybe she could go to nursing school at UC Davis. There was no one there to pry, they would be able to heal. She would be able to pull her family-to pull herself-back together. There had been too many dreams. Shirley lived days where she and the children seemed happy-days where she appeared to be content-but there were also the dreams. Sometimes the dreams were just about her husband. Everyday dreams, where they walked and talked or rode to the grocery store. Dreams where he played his guitar and sang to her. Dreams that brought Danny back to life. She could touch him, taste him, smell him. She could even make love to him so that she awakened flushed and blushing. Those were the good dreams. Broken yellow lines on the highway whizzed by. Shirley searched through radio stations looking for a song. She stopped when she heard Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald singing "On My Own." It was probably the wrong song to listen to-it was already too clear to her and the kids, they were on their own. Danny wasn't going to be coming back. Yes, there were good dreams. But then there were the other dreams, the ones that made her want to claw her way out of them. It was better to start over, to breathe again. Start over. That was the plan ... before the police car stopped her. Red and blue lights flashed behind her. The sound of the siren seemed to envelop the car. "Where're you on your way to so fast, lady?" The policeman leaned into the window and looked closely at her, then at the children lying in the back. Shirley could see another policeman in the patrol car and assumed he was running her plates. "You were going pretty fast. This one's going to cost you." Her heart was thumping as though she had committed a crime-a greater crime than speeding. "We're on our way to California." "California?" She heard the inquiry in the state trooper's voice but wasn't sure how to respond, so she just nodded. A voice from the other side of the car startled her. It was the other trooper. "Well, it looks like your trip is going to be delayed a little. You're going to have to come with us." "What's wrong? What did I do? What about my kids? What about my car?" She could feel her cool exterior falling apart. "Just calm down, lady. The kids will come with us," the second officer said from behind his dark shades. "We'll just go to the station, check out what needs to be checked out, and we'll take it from there. We'll leave your car here." He tipped his glasses so that he could see over the rim. "We should be putting you in cuffs, ma'am-" Shirley's heart jumped-"but we won't, out of respect for the children and until we can get this cleared up. But if I were you, I would be thinking about who I could call to bail me out and to come and get my kids." As they rode, Shirley thought of every story she had heard about criminals masquerading as cops. How stupid she had been to go along with these men! She was too scared to even ask why she was being taken to the station, why she would need to be bailed out, or why she would need someone to get her kids. How did she even know who they were? They might not be troopers-but imposters. She looked around the backseat. It was too late now. She and Mika and Lex were locked in. Mika and Lex looked back and forth at each other, at her, at the policemen. They scrunched themselves down under her arms and close to her body. Their clothes and their faces were wrinkled with sleep. Shirley forced herself to smile at them. "Isn't this neat? I always wondered what the inside of a police car looked like," she lied. "Don't worry. Mommy's got everything under control. There's just some paperwork to complete. That's all." She hugged them until the car pulled into town. The police station was small. Somehow it reminded her of Tyler. Everything outside was brown. A battered brown pickup truck pulled up beside them-it looked like a utility truck. A girl with very pale, dirty hair hopped out of the passenger's side. She looked dazed. There was a long, bleeding cut on her face. The man that got out of the driver's side door was also young, but he looked angry. His hair was almost the same color as the girl's, but he was balding prematurely on top. His features were brutish, and his skin was flushed red. He stomped around the side of the car, his stomach pulling against his pizza delivery shirt, grabbed the girl's arm and almost dragged her into the station. "She's a thief!" He cursed at the two policemen. The girl said nothing in her own defense. She just stumbled along while the angry young man jerked at her arm. "I caught her red-handed. Stealing tips and money from the cash register. Hard-earned money-money I earned. I'm working hard for a living." He spit on the ground. "And she's stealing it." The inside of the station was another shade, a lighter shade, of the brown exterior. "It always happens this way." The first trooper nodded at the young man. "We're quiet and nothing is going on-" he shook his hands in the air-"then it's a three-ring circus." He motioned to Shirley to sit on a dark brown, worn wooden bench, then motioned for the pale-haired girl to sit on a bench across from her. The girl's lip was starting to swell. The two troopers and the young man walked to a desk and stood talking, looking occasionally in the direction of Shirley and the girl. The trooper who'd called in Shirley's plates had his shades perched on top of his head. He sat down and started making phone calls. In between murmurings, sometimes the three of them would explode with laughter, as though they were old friends. Shirley kept her arms around Mika and Lex. She made small talk about where they were going tonight, what they would do when they got there. After what seemed to be forever, the first trooper approached them. "Well, ladies. We're having trouble getting through to the folks we need to talk with to get things squared up. So we're just going to let the two of you cool off in the holding cell until we can get things cleared up." Finally the girl protested. "Well, if you put me in, you need to put him in. Maybe I stole a few lousy bucks-I ain't sayin' I did and I ain't sayin' I didn't-but he beat me up. What about that? You see this blood running down my face, dontcha?" The young man lumbered toward them, raging-his fists raised and his jaw muscles clenched. "She's a lyin' thief! I never laid a hand on her. She ran into a wall trying to get away." "Right! And you're John Travolta!" The girl stuck her chin out. "All right, miss." The cop with the shades called to them from the chair where he sat with his ear to the phone. "You just calm down!" "She's the thief and now she's trying to ruin my reputation." The young man shrugged at the trooper on the phone, as though to show he had calmed down and it was no big deal. Shirley wasn't sure if she should speak or not, if her talking might make things worse for her and the children. "What about my kids?" she whispered to the trooper who held her arm to pull her to her feet. "They'll be okay. If we have to detain you much longer, we'll call social services. For right now, they'll be okay where they are." Shirley held her breath as she spoke again. "What am I being detained for? Why can't I just pay the fine and go?" He narrowed his eyes. "Don't get cute, lady. There's a car just like the one you're driving that's missing. We just need to get confirmation on the license plate number. So don't play innocent. Things will go better if you just stay quiet." The cell he took them to was dark, with bars, just like the ones on television. The trooper unlocked the door. "You two girls play nice in here." He chuckled as he walked away. "Oh, God, help me." Shirley whispered and closed her eyes. She must have fallen asleep, because suddenly it was as though she could see Mika and Lex huddled on the bench outside in the police station lobby. Shirley had to be dreaming. She was enveloped by a warm light ... a presence ... and she heard a voice that spoke to her, but not in words. "Don't fear. Where you go, you will not go alone," Shirley felt the presence say. "You will not be alone. Don't be afraid." Shirley forced herself awake and opened her eyes. This was supposed to be about starting over, about new beginnings. There was no angel in front of her. She was in a dark, dirty jail cell. She didn't know why she was there or when she would be leaving. She couldn't see her children, all she could see in front of her was a strangely familiar girl. Right now, it didn't seem like a new start or a dream; it was feeling like more of a nightmare. Chapter Two It was another hot day in Texas. There was nothing unusual, then, about two old ladies sitting on a porch and fanning. There was nothing peculiar about them smiling at each other, or about their heads nodding as they spoke back and forth. It was expected that they would drink cool drinks and that they would find shelter under the shade of a tree. "You ain't seen her in years, Mother. I want to believe, too. You know I love her, too." Ma Dear looked away. "But, I don't think she's thinking about you. It sure don't look like it." She turned to look into Mother Johnson's eyes. "You've been through enough. I just don't want to see you be hurt." A sorrowful smile crossed Ma Dear's lips. "I know, Ma Dear. But, that don't matter. She's still on my mind. We can't stop doing right just because people don't have the strength to do right by us. I'm just going to keep on praying and believing ... she's going to turn up. I'm just counting on God's grace." Mother Johnson touched a hand to one of her thin, dark knees and then reached to touch her dollop of white hair. "Mother, you are good woman, a strong woman." "Honey, anything I am is because of God's grace. You know that, Ma Dear. You've known me all my life. I've had my time being a little rough around the edges." Ma Dear laughed. "Hush, girl." She was still more like a schoolgirl inside a plump, aged body. Ma Dear slapped her leg. "I tell you what, you don't tell nobody about me, and I won't tell nobody about you! And that ain't just because I might have a little bit more to tell." She shook her head and her chest bobbed up and down a little when she giggled. "You're right about grace, though, Mother. It's because of that grace that we can believe that God hears us." Mother nodded and fanned herself. "Sure, it's about grace. And I've been thinking, Ma Dear. It's a wonder that with all we do, all the times we keep falling down and breaking the Lord's heart, that He keeps taking us back. It's a miracle that He keeps loving us. He just keeps on loving us. He keeps forgiving us and taking us back." Ma Dear's foot started patting. "Just like that Scripture that says, `If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.'" Mother and Ma Dear sat in silence. They rocked slowly. Finally, Mother spoke. "The good thing is that I know He won't be angry with us forever. He won't ever let His children be lost too long. That's why I know He's going to send Shirley back. I know He is. I already got the rooms ready." (Continues...) Excerpted from Passing into Light by Sharon Ewell Foster Copyright © 2002 by Sharon Ewell Foster Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.