The Woman at the Light: Book summary and reviews of The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady

The Woman at the Light

A Novel

By Joanna Brady

The Woman at the Light
  • Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Jul 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

A stunning debut novel set on a remote island in Key West in 1839.

Emily Lowry, born and bred in New Orleans, forgoes high society to marry a fisherman, and together they take off for a life of adventure in the Florida Keys. One afternoon in 1839, Emily's husband vanishes from Wreckers' Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tended to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but to take charge of the lighthouse while caring for her three young children with a fourth on the way.

When a runaway slave washes up on her shore, Emily is at first ready to shoot him, but she lets him help with the lighthouse, and he soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In her richly nuanced novel, Brady has created a heroine readers are unlikely to ever forget... An absolutely fantastic and unputdownable read!" - Michelle Moran, nationally bestselling author

"Part history, part romance, told in clear prose, The Woman at the Light is compelling and rewarding." - Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter

"A guaranteed good read!" - Mark Howell, editor of Solares Hill

"Forbidden love, passion, greed, revenge, and murder... [Brady] knows how to stop your heart on one page and pull your heart strings on the next. Along the way, she weaves in a suspenseful mystery with a surprise ending; I could not put the book down and neither will you." - John Viele, author of the The Florida Keys: A History of the Pioneers

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kristine I. (Carmel, IN)
Escape to Key West
I found The Woman at the Light a fun easy read, and found myself drawn in quickly to the story. I enjoyed learning about the keeping of the lighthouse and the history of Key West. The pace of the book was good and it kept my interest, but somehow I felt a bit detached from the narrator. I would have liked to feel her emotions more deeply. So many tragic and beautiful things happened to her but they were told a bit too matter-of-fact. She was still a strong woman, and I could admire her for how she dealt with all the challenges that came her way.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Grace S. (Harrison Township, MI)
The Woman at the Light
An enjoyable read with a descriptive history of Key West in the 1800s as well as insight into the role of women and slavery .... all interwoven with family dynamics and a love story.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kristin P. (Reston, VA)
A Summer-worthy historical fiction read
The Woman at the Light is historical fiction that transports you to another era in Old Key West. The greatest strength of the book is the rich historical setting. The character development, however, seems very 2-dimensional and at times feels forced to support the story. Overall, this is a fast read great for summer.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Linda J. (Manchester, MO)
The Woman at the Light
What a delight this book is! If you like Key West and are captivated by lighthouses, this book will keep you turning pages and wondering what will happen next. Joanna Brady did her research on women who "keep the light" in lighthouses, and has spun a tale filled with romance, mystery, and heartbreak. Emily Lowry was born in a well-to-do New Orleans family. After a whirlwind romance, she moves with husband Martin to Key West, then to Wreckers' Cay, an island off the coast, where Martin runs the lighthouse. One day, he disappears leaving her with their two children in charge. When a runaway slave finds the island, the story takes off. Spanning 45 years, the story is perfectly paced. Brady has captured the feel and atmosphere of the time when society had much different rules. How Emily copes with what life throws at her makes this book a compelling read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Barbara L. (Mill Valley, CA)
The Woman at the Light
I really liked this book. Emily Lowry is a character that resonates with the reader. Her growth and transformation from a pampered,wealthy young Southern woman to a strong, courageous independent woman whose eyes were opened to the ways of the world from which she had always been sheltered was compelling. How she learned to follow her heart and defy the strict societal mores of her day provided for a very satisfying read. This would be a great book for book club discussions, as there are many aspects to consider, among them slavery, Key West history and miscegenation. A good read!

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Julia A. (New York, NY)
Interesting but uneven
"The Woman at the Light" is an interesting read from the standpoint of dealing with a topic not often seen in novels, that of women lighthouse tenders in the pre-civil war era. I learned a lot from this book. The book's narrator, Emily, was one such lighthouse keeper, gaining the post when her husband disappeared. The narration is broken down by time periods, and some of the chapters are fast-paced and exciting. Others are slow-going. At times, I felt frustrated by Emily's lack of emotion when narrating events that would have inspired strong emotions in any person. At other times, the emotion was appropriate to the situation. Dealing with such weighty themes as miscegenation, interracial sex, family treachery, betrayal, piracy, and disease, there is of course the risk of melodrama; perhaps trying to avoid that pitfall accounts for the author's at times giving Emily such a dispassionate, almost off-hand narrative style while other times allowing her to express the expected human emotion. The book is worth a read for its insights into the historic period before and immediately after the Civil War, told from an unusual viewpoint, but don't expect to be blown away by "The Woman at the Light."

...36 more reader reviews

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Woman at the Light was inspired by Key West's colorful history and its female lighthouse keepers in the 19th century. A version of this book was originally self-published in 2010. Joanna divides her time between Key West and a stone cottage in a medieval village in the Southwest of France. You can find her at www.joannabradysite.com.

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