The Hidden Light of Northern Fires Summary and Reviews

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires

by Daren Wang

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang X
The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang
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Book Summary

Rooted in the history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line, Daren Wang's The Hidden Light of Northern Fires tells a story of redemption amidst a war that tore families and the country apart.

Mary Willis has always been an outcast, an abolitionist in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. After college, she dreams of exploring the country, but is obligated to take over the household duties and management of her family's farm, while her brother Leander avoids his own responsibilities. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable.

When escaped slave Joe Bell collapses in her father's barn, Mary is determined to help him cross to freedom in nearby Canada. But the wounded fugitive is haunted by his vengeful owner, who relentlessly hunts him up and down the country, and his sister, still trapped as a slave in the South.

As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war, rebels and soldiers from both sides bring intrigue and violence of the brutal war to the town and the farm, and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Action packed, taut with tension, and filled with memorable characters, this powerful debut displays the currents of history as they run through one small town, carrying away lives in their wake." - Booklist

"Revenge, righteousness, and a desperation for freedom are the spirits that possess the characters of Wang's first novel ... Certainly for Civil War buffs, but readers of modern political fiction will also see some similarities with our present political passions." - Library Journal

"A vivid, compelling portrayal of the heartbreaking price exacted for freedom." - Kirkus

"Wang's characters are either mustache-twirling bad guys or so good they practically glow with righteousness; a bit of nuance would have been welcome. The book's ending also rings untrue, with the seemingly fierce heroine paired off into a happily-ever-after that comes out of nowhere." - Publishers Weekly

"A wise and timely book." - Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena

"Deeply imagined and gorgeously written, the novel's beating heart is Mary Willis, brave, fallible and wholly a product of her time. Wang's debut will stay with you long after you turn the final page, and it's perfect for book clubs; you're going to want to talk about this one." - Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants and At the Water's Edge

"[Wang] captured the feel, passion and struggle of a host of characters, both good and bad, living in a time I felt I understand. The language, even the cadence of those words, is spot on. It is a powerful book, a worthy story." - Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South and The Orphan Mother

"The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a powerful and important novel about a lost piece of American history." - Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate, 2012-2014, author of Native Guard, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize

"I will carry this story of love and vengeance, ruin and restoration with me for a long, long time." - Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of gods in Alabama

"An instant classic, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires announces the arrival of a major talent, fully matured." - Da Chen, New York Times bestselling author of Colors of the Mountain

"Daren Wang's first novel is splendid - a distinctive clear-eyed perspective on a fresh corner of the Civil War. The characters are fully alive, wonderfully varied, and the narrative voice is particularly lucid, in sharp contrast with the raving bloody madness of that dark moment in American history." - Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author of Cold Mountain, winner of the 1997 National Book Award

"Mary Willis makes Scarlett O'Hara look like a whiney brat. Sure, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires brings to life an astounding lost story of the Civil War, but is also a stay-up-all-night, read-it-in-one-sitting novel that looses the corseted ladies of the era onto the real world." - Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

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Reader Reviews

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Becky H

lots of potential
There are at least four stories in this one novel. Mary and Joe are the two characters that are the most clearly and realistically drawn. You may need a “cast of characters” to keep all the individuals, families and alliances straight. Several plots seem a bit far-fetched. Here are three instances.– Southern Dad admitting after years and on his death bed that two of his slaves are his children and disinheriting the white brother: a slave girl in a brothel for 4 years just walking away with no residual mental damage: a Northern soldier given the option of just walking away from his unit and commission by his commanding officer.
The story line is intriguing and holds your interest. The love story is well written and believable. The ending is a bit too “pat” and comes out of nowhere. The author shows great promise in his writing skill. I look forward to seeing his next tale. My copy is an advance readers’ edition and there are many grammatical and typo errors.
3 of 5 stars

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Author Information

Daren Wang

Daren Wang is the Founding Executive Director of the Decatur Book Festival. Before launching the festival, he had a twenty-year career in public radio, both national and local. Wang has written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Paste Magazine, Five Points magazine, among others. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is his first novel.

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