The Voyage of the Morning Light Summary and Reviews

The Voyage of the Morning Light

A Novel

by Marina Endicott

The Voyage of the Morning Light by Marina Endicott X
The Voyage of the Morning Light by Marina Endicott
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Book Summary

From a critically acclaimed and beloved storyteller comes a sweeping novel set aboard the Morning Light, a Nova Scotian merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.

Kay and Thea are half-sisters, separated in age by almost twenty years, but deeply attached. When their stern father dies, Thea travels to Nova Scotia for her long-promised marriage to the captain of the Morning Light. But she cannot abandon her orphaned young sister, so Kay too embarks on a life-changing journey to the other side of the world.

At the heart of The Voyage of the Morning Light is a crystallizing moment in Micronesia: Thea, still mourning a miscarriage, forms a bond with a young boy from a remote island and takes him on board as her own son. Over time, the repercussions of this act force Kay, who considers the boy her brother, to examine her own assumptions―which are increasingly at odds with those of society around her―about what is forgivable and what is right.

Inspired by a true story, Marina Endicott shows us a now-vanished world in all its wonder, and in its darkness, prejudice, and difficulty, too. She also brilliantly illuminates our present time through Kay's examination of the idea of "difference"―between people, classes, continents, cultures, customs and species. The Voyage of the Morning Light is a breathtaking novel by a writer who has an astonishing ability to bring past worlds vividly to life while revealing the moral complexity of our own.

Published in Canada as The Difference.

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Media Reviews

"Endicott depicts her characters with great delicacy and sympathy…There is so much in this book to linger over, from Kay and Thea's relationship with each other to the strength and autonomy of Kay's mind to Endicott's lyrical descriptions of the sea and the ship. It's a novel to return to again and again…A quiet, elegant triumph." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Marina Endicott has given us a rich and wonderful read, with ships and whales and a tincture of Greek, centering on an observant young troublemaker of a heroine, who navigates a sea of memorable characters, each of them drawn with Dickensian skill. An adventure story that comes full circle emotionally, The Voyage of the Morning Light will find a place among the beloved seagoing classics." - Mary Norris, author of Greek to Me

"A beautiful book. It's so lovely in its graveness, and in its comedy…The cut of the prose is so keen and the happenings are so finely wrought that it contorts where it can't help but contort, around the places where unanswerable grief comes into our lives." - Helen Oyeyemi, author of Gingerbread

"An immersive reading experience, the kind that makes one think, and think again...How movingly the novel considers the otherness between people, between the world and us, between human and all other life. Its boldness has a deep humility. Marina Endicott allows her characters to exist without being afraid of their (and our) moral dilemmas and failures, or the gap between our intentions and our understanding. She writes about goodness so well―so beautifully and joyfully. I feel as if I could close my eyes and still be at sea with these characters. A wonderful, brilliant book." - Madeline Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

"[The Voyage of the Morning Light] is one of those very, very rare books: It breaks your heart (over and over), is heavy with sorrow and has no neat endings or answers―and yet, it also opens you up to wonder, making you yearn to know more, see more and love more." - Sarah Laing, Globe and Mail

This information about The Voyage of the Morning Light was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Jean N. (New Richmond, OH)

The Voyage
I really enjoyed the Voyage of the Morning Light. This was certainly a book that took me to a different time and place. The scenery, nature and life aboard the sailing ship was vividly described. I could see it all in my mind's eye. It was not a fast paced book, but that was part of the charm for me. There was a lot of food for thought. . And certainly the main moral dilemma involving Kay's "brother". I did like all the main characters. I kind of skipped over the Greek parts, although I admired Kay's diligence in tackling her studies.
I think this would be a good choice for a book group. There is plenty to discuss.

I had a difficult time loading the book, but after asking BookBrowse for help someone called me and got me on track. BookBrowse is wonderful- they are so helpful! Then, my computer conked out before I could get the book read and my review in. I'm glad I stuck with it because I thought this book was great!

Karen L. (Lititz, PA)

Beautifully Atmospheric
The Voyage of the Morning Light by Marina Endicott presents historical fiction intertwined with the moral decisions a family of the early 1900s struggle with and, eventually, must face.

The story of the Grant family begins during an ocean voyage with Captain Grant in charge, accompanied by his new wife, Thea, and her precocious young half-sister, Kay. The author subtly weaves her character development with vivid descriptions of a life at sea and the beauty of the pristine natural surroundings.

In the course of the voyage, Thea suffers a miscarriage and, subsequently, the ship falls upon a small group of desperate islanders begging for food. They offer a young boy who accompanies them in exchange for sustenance and Thea cannot refuse.

The moral outcome of this decision carries forth the plot and keeps the characters and the reader engrossed in its impact on all of their lives.

What brings the reader back to the book each time it is picked up is the desire to return to life lived at the turn of the century, vividly detailed, as well as the desire to engage and share in the family's moral dilemma, realizing that the decisions they had to deal with are as contemporary as yesterday.

This book presents historical fiction at its best.

Alyson R. (Spokane, WA)

Excellent morality tale set aboard a trade ship
I am so glad I stuck with this book, after the first chapter or so. This is a tale of a pre-teen Canadian girl named Kay growing up in the changing world of the early 20th century, grappling with where she belongs. While aboard a trade ship voyage across the world with her sister Thea and brother-in-law Francis she gets to visit people and places most do not, which helps to shape her worldview as she grows. It also helps create a contrast to which she can unpack her childhood spent with her missionary father, and sister, at a school for indigenous children in Canada.

This novel strikes me as a morality tale, as the protagonists grapple with difficult questions about what is right and wrong, and acknowledging that the decisions you make impact others lives. Thea, who has such certainty in what she has been taught and presents it as such, finds it difficult to outwardly show she has doubts. But the author also does a good job showing the societal muffling of women's voices, feelings, and even physical distress during this time, for the sake of what was then considered proper and womanly.

My initial worry in the first few pages of reading was that there would be a glorification of the righteous white savior coming to save the soul of the "noble savage" (a very problematic and erroneous anachronism). But the author is honest about the realities of European colonialism for indigenous populations and many disturbing outcomes, like culture/language loss, family upheaval, slavery, institutional racism, disease, starvation, etc.

I do wish a first-person narrative from Aren, Kay's brother, was included, but I would highly recommend to anyone looking to learn more about early 20th century history, the cultures of the South Pacific, and those willing to question their own perceptions.

Jennifer B. (Oviedo, FL)

Voyage of Morning Light
Escape is the first word I think of when reviewing Voyage of the Morning Light. This book is a tonic for the mind. An adventurous trip on a sailing vessel in the early twentieth century is the focal point of the story. From there the characters develop clearly and maintain their quirks and ideals throughout the book without effort on the reader's part to remember who is who. Descriptions of the ports of call and of life on the open sea make me long for a transcontinental voyage to the South Pacific. I became accustomed to glossing over the Greek phrases and the passages describing intricate sailing maneuvers since neither is familiar to me. At first they were off putting, but quickly were ignored as I was eager to discover what would happen next. After reading this delightful book, which could easily become a classic, I have the urge to reread Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island.

Marion C. (Peabody, MA)

Playful Dolphins
The Voyage of the Morning Light richly details life aboard the merchant vessel Morning Light from Nova Scotia to the islands in the South Pacific in 1912. Not only did I feel like I was right beside young Kay, Aren, and Mr. Brimmer, but I experienced their excitement at seeing the schools of dolphins, sharks, sunrises, and storms. Marina Endicott delved into the struggles of Kay and Aren, both displaced in their youth. A separate trip to the South Pacific brought clarity to the dawn of their adulthood. The Voyage of the Morning Light is a first-rate read, one you will thoroughly enjoy.

Borderlass (Belmont, MA)

A Young Girl's "Voyage to Adulthood"...
"The Voyage of the Morning Light" serves up a masterfully-researched and fleshed-out story wherein its main character Kay Ward embarks on her family's commercial trading vessel for an extensive sea voyage c. 1912. Author Endicott's proficiency with time-consistent dialogue seems particularly valuable here for establishing both atmosphere and tone - lending "classic" status to the book while invoking a sense of timelessness to the unfolding story. Readers will find this thought-provoking tale of a young teen and later young woman a veritable buffet of young and new adult themes, with modern touches, including some frank observations along the lines of racial diversity, religion, morality, and blended family life. Kay's thoughts as well as struggles and triumphs with her past and current relationships are central to the novel's momentum. Anyone of any age who adored and occasionally rereads L. M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" series - another Maritime-centric tale of a young girl's "voyage to adulthood" - will find Endicott's twenty-first century book with its global backdrop both appealing and refreshing. Book clubs and women's literature fans - take notice!

...13 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott's novel Good to a Fault won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, Canada and the Caribbean, and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her next, The Little Shadows, was short-listed for the Governor General's award and long-listed for the Giller Prize, as was her last book, Close to Hugh. Endicott lives in Alberta most of the time.

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