Let it Shine
March 14, 2016
Summary: Sofronia Wallis knows that proper Black women don’t court trouble by upending the status quo, but it’s 1961 and the Civil Rights movement is in full swing. Sofie’s spent half her life being prim, proper, and reserved—as if that could bring her mother back—but the nonviolent protests happening across the South bring out her inner agitator.
Ivan Friedman has devoted his life to boxing, loving the finesse of a well-delivered punch and the penance of receiving one. His family escaped from Europe before the horrors of WWII, and Ivan decides to help fight injustice in their new country, even if it goes against all his instincts as a fighter.
When Ivan and Sofie meet, they realize that their pasts are intertwined and—with the sparks that fly between them—perhaps their futures will be too. With everything in their society lined up against them, will Sofie and Ivan be able to beat the odds? Or will their chance at love be destroyed by the tumultuous times they live in?
What I Liked: This is a very well-researched book that manages to tell a compelling love story against the backdrop of a horrific time period in United States history. Cole isn’t afraid to talk about the non-violent protests and the horrible treatment Black people faced in the 1960s. And the story is somber because of that. But the love story between Sofie and Ivan is told in a kind and gentle way. I loved seeing Sofie find her voice and how the horror of the Holocaust inspired Ivan to join the fight. I also loved how Cole showed the different levels of bigotry in the community while also showing the hope that existed at the time.
What I Didn’t Like: Being a novella, there were some characters that didn’t get a ton of development and who I wanted to know more about. But this was a minor issue that didn’t change my enjoyment of the story.
Who Should Read It: If you’re looking for a historical romance that takes place in a time period not often written about, this is the book for you. If you like your romances grounded in reality, this is also a good choice.
Review Wrap-Up: While this may seem like an unconventional choice for a holiday romance, I think the Hanukkah scene towards the end makes it a great choice to read at this time. I loved this short but impactful story and know that you will too.
“His smile made her think of sucking honey straight from the comb, of the sweetness spreading on your tongue and how it could make you smile like that; like you’d just tasted something real good and wanted more.”
“People shouldn’t have to be perfect to be seen as worthy of empathy.”
“…she finally understood what the term mitzvah meant. It was the kindness that allowed people to overcome all the differences society had erected as walls between them. It was being surrounded by those that she cared about most, and knowing that, against all hardship, they were going to make it.”