In her review of How The Light Gets In for The Washington Post, Maureen Corrigan writes: "Penny's voice - occasionally amused, yet curiously formal - is what makes the world of her novels plausible. I can think of few other writers who could sidestep cuteness in a scene that features an elderly female poet and her pet duck."
Here is a scene from the novel that features that poet, Ruth, and her pet duck, Rosa:
[Ruth] lifted Rosa from her lap, feeling it warm where the duck had been. She carefully placed Rosa on Jean-Guy's lap.
He seemed not to notice, but after a few moments he brought his hand up and stroked Rosa. Softly, softly.
"I could wring her neck, you know," he said.
"I know," said Ruth. "Please don't."
She watched Rosa, holding her dark duck eyes. And Rosa looked at Ruth, as Jean-Guy's hand caressed the feathers of Rosa's back, coming closer and closer to the long neck.
Ruth held fast to Rosa's eyes.
Finally Jean-Guy's hand stopped, and rested.
"Rosa came back," ...