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The Woman at the Light

A Novel

by Joanna Brady

The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady X
The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady
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  • Christie K. (Hobbs, New Mexico)
    The Woman at the Light
    I found Brady's The Woman at the Light to be an interesting read. Emily is a brave woman (for having ran the lighthouse and for allowing herself to love a black man-- only two examples listed here-- there are more that appear later in the story) and what I found incredible is her strength. I did have some trouble with Brady's use of language, which seemed out of character for the era. Some of her descriptions and dialogue weren't very original or in accordance with most of her style of writing. However, I found the plot packed with twists and turns, and particularly interesting was her relationship with Andrew. Emily is bold and pursues what she wants. This is an entertaining read. I would recommend this book to readers.
  • Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)
    Good, but disappointing
    I loved the history and the story for the first 3/4 of the book. The writing was exceptional and descriptive. The history of the expansion of Key West was something that grabbed my attention. However, when the story turned to Emily's "rags to riches" narrative, the plot turned unbelievable. Like so many books by new authors, the last 50-100 pages seemed like a frantic effort on the part of the writer to tie up loose ends rather than developing a satisfying conclusion. good book, not great.
  • Wendy F. (Kalamazoo, MI)
    Woman at the Light
    Really enjoyed this book. Good story with love, loyalty and deception. After recently visiting Key West, it was interesting to get a bit of the history of the area. The Heroine, Emily Lowrie, shows so much strength in taking over the lighthouse and running the family. All of the trials she and her family endures and she continues to over come are engrossing to read. Joanna Brady gives us the gamut of emotions and adventure in this one for sure.
  • Mary B. (St Paul, MN)
    The Woman at the Light
    I enjoyed this book because it captured an era and setting not that familiar to me. Very strong female character added much to story. The first person narrative was well done. Going back and forth in time also made it very interesting. Details of people, feelings, weather and location seemed very real. I feel I learned much about a time and place I had not read about in other novels.
  • Barb W. (Mechanicsburg, PA)
    A great summer read
    I love historical fiction books, and lighthouses are a passion of mine, so this book caught my eye from the moment I first heard about it. I got caught up in the story almost immediately, and had a hard time putting it down. I liked the characters, the setting and the story itself, and will happily recommend this book to friends, family, co-workers and our library patrons.
  • Erin J. (Vancouver Community Library, WA)
    Haunting love story
    Nearly two years ago, my husband and I honeymooned in the Florida Keys. Joanna Brady's vivid descriptions of Key West--the heat, humidity, and history of "wrecking" (the practice of salvaging goods off wrecked ships for profit)--had me feeling like I was right back on the islands. Of course, that may have been due to reading most of the book while sitting in the hot sun of the terrace during my lunch breaks, but I prefer to think of it as "sensory immersion."

    There really were female lightkeepers back in the 1800s, primarily widows or daughters of lightkeepers who died or became incapacitated. Emily Lowry is a fictional member of that sisterhood. When her husband vanishes without a trace, she takes over as lightkeeper of Wrecker's Cay, struggling to raise her three young children and another on the way. One day an escaped slave washes up on shore during a storm, and her children persuade her to let him stay and learn to be her assistant keeper. Emily's views on slavery evolve over the course of the next couple of years, as Andrew shifts from being a mistrusted stranger to the love of her life. But storms of all sorts blow across the islands, and nothing lasts forever. Deception and harsh social realities of the 1840s pull her family apart, and loss shadows her every turn.

    I am very thankful to have read this novel in the sunshine. The constant specter of death and grief often left me feeling melancholy as it was, so I'm glad gloomy weather did not magnify that effect. I am also grateful for the times of joy and peace which balanced the mood.

    What kept my rating from being five stars were the anachronisms that jerked me back out of the story, thinking, "Huh?" For example, the part where Emily notices 10-year-old Martha starting to develop breasts. It wasn't until the last two or three decades that girls starting hitting puberty so young. Before concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) began giving growth hormones to cows, chickens, and pigs and spraying everything in sight with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, girls did not enter puberty until they were, on average, 12 to 14. Possibly as old as 16. So Martha growing breasts at age 10 seems highly improbable.

    Likewise, when a visiting lightkeeper collapses on the tower stairs due to a bad heart, and he has Emily hand him his medicine, I was confused by the implication that she gives him a nitroglycerin pill to put under his tongue. Really? In an age where doctors still tried to bleed patients and balance their "humors," they had nitroglycerin pills? I sincerely doubt that.

    And what was up with the random pot-smoking? I could understand the first time as being a plot device to break down inhibitions, but why continue? What did it have to do with anything else in the story? It added no value, in my opinion. Rather, it lowered my opinion of the characters who partook. And of the author.

    Still, it was a delightful book overall--a haunting love story, set in a unique time and place.

    For readers' advisors: setting and character doorways are primary. Story is secondary. There are a few scenes with sexual content but nothing especially graphic.
  • Rosemary T. (San Antonio, TX)
    The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady
    The author presents an interesting view into the life and hardships of a women lighthouse keeper during the 1800's. Add a missing husband, an escaped slave, an illicit love affair, and a hurricane and you have a plot that keeps the reader turning pages. An added bonus is the description of an antebellum Key West.

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