OUT OF THE DARK
Mira, October 2003
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson
Jade Cochrane was four years old the night her mother took her out of their home and away from her father. Margaret Cochrane bundled Jade in a blanket and quietly ran from the house into a waiting Volkswagen van with two bearded men in robes. They were followers of a man named Solomon, the leader of a cult called The People of Joy. Margaret Cochrane lived two more years before dying a drug-related death. Six-year-old Jade was put to work, with Solomon as her pimp. For six years, until Jade was twelve, her life was a nightmare of pedophiles taking full advantage of the beautiful little girl. Then one night, one of the "Uncles" almost killed her. Fifteen-year-old Raphael grabbed her and ran from the house where they were living. He saved her life that night, and they have been on the run ever since.
Twenty years later an unexpected set of circumstances occur, which lead to Jade's return to her father in St. Louis. Sam Cochrane has searched for his wife and daughter since the night they disappeared. His friends know his story and are instrumental in finding Jade. One of these friends, Luke Kelly, P.I., tracks Jade and Raphael from San Francisco to New Orleans, and brings them home to St. Louis and Sam.
OUT OF THE DARK is a deeply moving, emotionally packed story that is right out of today's headlines. The horrors Jade and Raphael endure during their time with The People of Joy, and then on the run, will keep readers glued to the pages. I could not put this book down. My favorite character is Raphael, who patiently looked out for and took care of Jade from the time she was twelve and he not much more than a boy himself. My heart went out to him, even more so than to the heroine. He did the best he knew how for Jade, and admitted he should have made her stop running and face her demons.
Sharon Sala says in the author's note that she "struggled through the writing of this book in a way that I've never done before." The story of child abuse and incurable illness is difficult to talk about and difficult to read. This author tells Jade and Raphael's story in a way that will touch your heart. However, that said, I must add that there are problems with the writing. In some places dates and times don't match, and sentences are just thrown in seemingly at random. In other places where the story should have been more in-depth, it skims the surface. Another thing I found irritating is the way everyone calls Jade baby and honey. I realize she had no childhood, but at twenty-four, she is no longer a baby. They want her to work to overcome her past, yet they keep her an emotional infant. Instead of Jade coming off as sympathetic, she just seemed pathetic to me. I've read a lot of Sharon Sala's work and have always found her to be an outstanding writer, but this book is not her best effort. I don't know if there was a problem with editing or with time or word count. The storyline is engrossing, and if you overlook the above problems, which I did, you'll find a book that will keep you reading until you turn the last page.
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