After a tortured childhood and years of soul-searching, Brooke Morrison has finally settled into a comfortable life. While his sexuality prohibits him from practicing his degree in youth ministry in a church setting, he’s found a fulfilling job as a youth counselor at a residential treatment facility in Colorado. He falls in love, marries the man of his dreams, and makes peace with God. He’s happy.
Then his buried past drags him back to the Ozarks.
The life Brooke has worked so hard to build is crumbling in his hands in the face of painful memories and past abuse, and his confidence is withering. In El Dorado Springs, where his nightmares come to life, Brooke desperately seeks closure life doesn’t offer. Brooke must find value in himself, in his marriage, and in the world around him—and create the hope and perseverance to keep his past from swallowing him whole.
I had a very difficult time reading The Shattered Door. This is not due to the author’s writing, which is actually quite impressive, especially when it comes to varying the dialogue of different characters (Maudra vs. Jed). No, my issue is because it’s a bit too real. Even though I grew up in the southern Bible Belt, my family did not hail from the area. As such, I was not raised with many of what I consider to be bigoted ideals often found in small towns in staunchly religious areas (and yes, I realize that I am painting with a rather large brush, as they say). But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t exposed to them. While I may be straight as an arrow, I’ve never felt it was my place to judge someone for being who they were born to be – I don’t have to understand it to accept it, because it just is. Because of this, and because I have been fortunate to live in Key West for more than a decade, I had forgotten just how ignorant and small minded people could be and how effectively they could wield their religion to condemn those who are different than they are. I suppose that’s not entirely true because I do see reports on the news, articles in the paper, posts on social media, and have read other books that address the subject, but there was just something about The Shattered Door that made it so much grittier and realistic that I often found myself furious and outraged over what was happening to Brooklyn.
Brooke’s childhood was heartbreaking at best and criminal at worst. With as hard as this book hit me, I am thankful that Witt did not go into full detail about the entirety of Brooke’s childhood because the “highlights” the reader is treated to were more than enough to make me want to maim someone on his behalf. His mother is an exceedingly easy character to hate and I often found my thoughts mirroring Brooke’s when he tried not to let her push his buttons – but unlike Brooke, I felt no guilt for them. And believe me when I say that I detested his mother for pretty much the entire book, which is what made the glimpses into his early childhood memories which showed that she wasn’t always that way even harder to stomach. Seeing the difference between the mother he started with and the mother he ended with, well it’s a miracle that Brooke was as well-adjusted and full of faith as he was.
As for the religious aspects of the story, they too frequently had me swallowing back anger. Even though I understand why they played so heavily into the storyline, there was more than one occasion when I wanted to stop reading because it was too much. Too much judgment. Too much condemnation. Too much hate. And yet, I know there are still churches that operate on fear and prejudice, that pick and choose the parts of the Bible they wish to follow, that preach hate instead of love, that twist the Bible to fit their agenda. While the new preacher did not share many of the views of the outgoing preacher and was far more accepting of Brooke’s homosexuality (almost welcoming of it), his naivety in underestimating the deep-seeded bigotry of some in his congregation was both encouraging and disheartening. It was encouraging because it was a reflection of his own beliefs and the direction he wanted to lead his parishioners in. It was disheartening because of the fallout from his hopeful and well-meaning miscalculations. And I’m being purposefully vague about the details as this is a story that I feel needs to play out for each reader, because the reader’s personal experience is going to color their interpretation of the book.
The Shattered Door is a very compelling read. I suspect there will be several readers who will find the religious themes to be too much – some being unable to read it because of how real it is and others believing it to be an over dramatization intended to vilify those characters in the book who attack Brooke. As I said earlier, I was often angry as I read, wanting to lash out at those whose actions were meant to injure Brooke. I will also admit to hating the author very briefly when Brooke suffered a devastating blow toward the end of the book. But I blame that on Witt as well, because had his story not elicited such strong reactions from me throughout the book already, then I probably wouldn’t have wished a pox on him. Luckily for him, I have no pox-power and would have withdrawn it immediately anyway because it was merely another real, even if exceedingly painful moment. I am grateful that while this is a very heavy read, there are several moments of levity, that usually occurred exactly when I needed them. The Shattered Door was a very thought provoking read and one I suspect will stick with me for a while – or I will do my best to block from my mind so as not to be so angry about it. This is the first book by Brandon Witt I’ve read, but I will be looking into more of his writing because an author who can elicit the level of emotion that I experienced while reading this book, is one I need to read again.