Through the Valley of the Deep Darkness
by Thomas Arner
Trafford Publishing

"Each time I look upon the unresponsive form of Elise, my anger increases. Each time I think of her skin grafts, my anger builds. Each time the image of the lifeless body of Zackary arises in my mind, my anger begins to boil. Each time we need to share the burn unit waiting room space with Michael, I come close to losing control."

Thomas Arner details in his brutally honest memoir the extraordinary circumstances of his descent into darkness. Following the death of his one year old grandson, Zackary, from a suspicious apartment fire, his daughter, Elise, lies in the hospital suffering from burns on over seventy percent of her body. Requiring extensive care and skin grafts, Thomas and his wife, Marian, make the trek across the mountain from Pennsylvania to Virginia each day to visit and care for Elise. They wrestle with the emotional and physical toll of an altered life, while facing the possibility their son-in-law, Michael, is somehow responsible.

Days and weeks and months pass as Elise lies in the hospital "like a mummy," and the suspicions mount against Michael while Thomas' anger grows and escalates toward potential violence. He sleeps with a gun under his mattress, out of fear for safety, while each day suffering from unknown answers. He must keep control, even as he sits in the waiting room with Michael, a silent presence in the corner of the room, which he refers to as a "piece of the furniture." Yet, as his anger pulls Thomas further and further toward darkness, his faith guides him out of it.

The investigation into Michael's responsibility for the fire leads to a shocking confession. He is charged, put to trial, and found guilty. But the ordeal does not end there for the Arners. Now they must heal, help their daughter in her recovery, and learn to live a changed life, with the weight of everything they've lost.

Thomas, an ordained minister, recounts one of the most difficult trials of his life. As he and Marian navigate the depths of despair, Thomas turns to his faith to understand and find a way through what he calls his "deep." Following the words of the Apostle's Creed, he uses them as "markers" to lead him each step of the way through the terrible loss of Zackary and his daughter's need for strength and love. Interestingly he writes of the mundane details of everyday life in parallel with the details of the extraordinary situation he faces. Thomas' book becomes not just a personal account of one man's struggle with loss and pain, but a book of guidance and healing power. It will move you, haunt you, and inspire you.

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