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Authors: Melody Carlson

The Other Side of Darkness

BOOK: The Other Side of Darkness
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Books by Melody Carlson

ADULT FICTION
Finding Alice
Crystal Lies
All I Have to Give

TEEN FICTION
Diary of a Teenage Girl series
The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor series
Notes from a Spinning Planet series
True Colors series
The Carter House Girls series

NONFICTION
Piercing Proverbs
True

Praise for
The Other Side of Darkness

“A moving and profound look into the world of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Melody Carlson’s
The Other Side of Darkness
is a powerfully told tale of deception, redemption, and the true character of God. Your heart will break and heal again as this unlikely heroine discovers that God really isn’t as she imagined and His love and grace are greater than her fears.”

—M
ARLO
S
CHALESKY
, author of
Beyond the Night

“Melody Carlson’s matchless insights into human character shine in
The Other Side of Darkness
. Every spiritual weakness, every flaw of the heart, every desire to be loved and accepted, Ms. Carlson understands, caresses, and clarifies. A powerful read.”

—S
USAN
M
EISSNER
, author of
The Shape of Mercy

“The Other Side of Darkness
is a frank and sometimes harrowing portrayal of mental illness tangled with spiritual disorder. Anyone with a heart can identify with Melody Carlson’s fragile protagonist. This is a book that needed to be written, and it’s a book that needs to be read. Despite its somber subject, I couldn’t put it down. And I’m a better person for the experience.”

—K
ATHRYN
M
ACKEL
, author of
Boost

“Melody Carlson possesses a rare and riveting gift for seeing compassionately into the troubled soul and pointing with rich prose toward the real answers to mental illness found in Christ.
The Other Side of Darkness
captured my attention and stirred my heart from the first page to the wrenching conclusion. No matter how far along we may think we are in the Lord, a book like this will remind us—but for the grace of God, there go I!”

—J
ILL
E
LIZABETH
N
ELSON
, author of the To Catch a Thief series

“Powerful. Chilling. Compelling.
The Other Side of Darkness
held me from the very first page. Anyone who has ever been in doubt about what being a Christian truly means should read this book. It not only explores the tragedy of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it also shows the tragedy of innocent people being led astray. I highly recommend this book.”

—L
ENORA
W
ORTH
, author of
Heart of the Night

“Real and razor-sharp,
The Other Side of Darkness
is a startling look at mental illness and the toxicity of the church gone astray. A frightening reminder that true darkness does not wear the guise we most expect … but the most familiar of faces.”

—T
OSCA
L
EE
, author of
Demon
:
A Memoir
and
Havah: The Story of Eve

T
HE
O
THER
S
IDE OF
D
ARKNESS
P
UBLISHED BY
M
ULTNOMAH
B
OOKS
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
A division of Random House Inc
.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The quotation of Proverbs 31:30 on
this page
and the paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 on
this page
are taken from the New American Standard Bible®. © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (
www.Lockman.org
).

The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Carlson Management Co. Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of The Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.

M
ULTNOMAH
and its mountain colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Carlson, Melody.
  The other side of darkness: a novel / Melody Carlson. — 1st ed.
     p. cm.
  eISBN: 978-0-307-76945-9
   1. Women—Fiction. 2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder—Fiction. 3. Cults—
United States—Fiction. 4. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
  PS3553.A73257084 2008
  813′.54—dc22
                                              2008023097

v3.1

Contents
Author’s Note

Most of my novels begin with a single question, some puzzling dilemma I need to resolve.
The Other Side of Darkness
is a perfect example. Except this story is filled with
many
questions. Questions like, What kind of person gets pulled into a pseudo-Christian cult? Does she simply wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll join some wacky church today”? And what kind of person becomes a leader in a church that’s going sideways? Does a wolf in sheep’s clothing intentionally set out to do evil from the start? Or is he just as deceived as his followers?

Research proves that some personality types are more susceptible to spiritual fraud than others. Some people, by nature, are more gullible, more needy, more emotionally fragile. And those are the ones whom cult leaders often prey upon—good-hearted and well-meaning people who can be controlled through fear and guilt and then bullied into submission. But how can we become more aware of this vulnerability in others—in ourselves? How do we help a sister or a brother who, though set on diligently serving God, is being steadily reeled in by a spiritual charlatan?

Sometimes fiction is the most direct way to convey hard-to-tell truths. In this based-on-fact but fictional story, we will journey with Ruth Jackson, unraveling her past to find clues as to why she has been lured into a cult. We will walk with her into the dark places of fear and guilt and torment. We will see her struggle against both real and imagined demonic powers. We will begin to understand how a chemical imbalance such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can make a person exceptionally vulnerable to the deceptions of brainwashing. And we will witness her flawed thinking as she drags her own precious children along this perilous path, endangering both their emotional and physical lives.

As disturbing as parts of this story may seem, it is reality. It is happening today. And like other mental-health issues, OCD is not limited to any socioeconomic level, just as cult churches are not confined within any one denomination. Both are widespread. Not only that, but as biblical prophecy predicts and contemporary culture reveals, a whole generation of young people are extremely vulnerable right now, ripe for the picking for cults of all kinds. Maybe it’s time to open our eyes—as well as our hearts.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

—2 T
IMOTHY
1:7,
NKJV

Prologue

T
hat’s not good enough.”

I scratch the mosquito bite on the back of my arm and adjust my thick-lens glasses to look up at my mom. Her eyes feel like two sharp prongs probing right into my forehead—as if she can read my thoughts. And maybe she can.

“Why not?” I say quietly, then glance away, wishing I’d kept quiet.

“Look at that carpet.” Her index finger points down like an arrow at the new orange shag carpeting that goes wall to wall in our small, wood-paneled family room.

I look but see nothing other than carpet. Still, I know better than to state this as fact.

“Pull the vacuum back and forth in straight lines. Back and forth, back and forth,
like this
.” She uses her hands to show me, as if I don’t fully understand the concept of back and forth.

I stand with my shoulders hunched forward, staring dumbly down at the sea of orange at my feet.

“If you did it right, Ruth, I would see neat, even rows about six inches wide. Now, start in the corner by the fireplace, and do it again.”

I frown and, although I know it’s not only futile but stupid, say, “But it’s clean, Mom. I vacuumed everything in here. The carpet is already
clean.”

The family room becomes very quiet now. With the Hoover off, I can hear the sounds of kids playing outside, enjoying their Saturday freedom like normal ten-year-olds, not that I mistake myself for normal. And then I hear the familiar hissing sound of my mother as she blows air like a jet stream through her nostrils.

“Ruth Anne!”
She bends down and peers at me, those flaming blue eyes just inches from my own. “Are you talking back to me?”

I glance down at my faded blue Keds and mutely shake my head. I do not want to be slapped. Without looking at her, I turn the vacuum cleaner on again and drag its bulky, cavernous body over to the wall by the fireplace next to the big picture window, although I don’t look out. I don’t want to see my friends playing. Even worse, I don’t want them to see me.

As I vacuum the rug all over again, I try not to think about my older sister, Lynette, the pretty one. I try not to imagine her at her ballet lesson just now, looking sleek and lovely in her black leotard and tights, doing a graceful arabesque with one hand on the barre, glimpsing her long straight back in the gleaming mirror behind her.

“You are not made for ballet,” my mother had told me two years ago when I pleaded with her for lessons. “You’re much too stout, and your arms and legs are too short and stubby. You take after your father’s side of the family.”

And I can’t disagree with her when I examine myself in the bathroom mirror. With my dark hair and untamable curls and these muddy brown eyes, I definitely do not look like I belong in this particular family of blue-eyed, long-limbed blonds. Well, my mother isn’t a true blonde. A monthly bottle of Lady Clairol helps her out, although no one is allowed to mention this fact,
ever
, and she takes care to purchase her “contraband” in a drugstore in the neighboring
town where no one knows her. But she lets it be known that Lynette and my little brother, Jonathan, both get their silky blond locks from her side of the family—a respectable mix of English and Scandinavian.

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