Excerpt from The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Light Pirate

by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton X
The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton
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  • Published:
    Dec 2022, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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The Light Pirate

Frida watches Kirby from the kitchen window while she washes Yukon Golds beneath a thin trickle of water. Scrubbing at the dim yellow skins, she decides not to peel them. Maybe the boys won't notice if she mashes them thoroughly enough—and if they do, she will cite nutritional value. Outside, beneath a bloated purple sky knifed with the sharp fronds of a coconut palm, Kirby stacks sandbags against the door to the tool shed. Even with the AC blasting, Frida can smell the rich stink of thunder in the air, something like ozone and gasoline and dirt all mixed together. The hurricane is close now. She can taste it.

The baby kicks so hard she holds on to the counter until it stops. It feels as if this tiny, unborn thing could topple her. She asked—no, begged—Kirby to take them north, beyond the cone of uncertainty, but this is the third hurricane of the season and the third time she's wanted to evacuate. The first one fizzled into a tropical storm before it even reached land. Heavy rain and a stiff wind and that was all. The second crawled up the opposite coast, wreaking havoc in Sarasota and Tampa, then swung back out into the Gulf. Before each one, he listened quietly to her pleas, calming her fears without succumbing to them, but then this morning something in her husband shifted. "Get yourself together," he snapped. "We're not leaving." She was stung, shocked by the hardness in his voice. A new sound. Or new to her. It was just over a year ago that they met. Only six months since they married. There's so much to learn about one another.

Even if he were not bound to these storms by his work as a lineman, he would still be bound by something else. She has always understood this about him. He would still insist that this house is the safest place for them. This house—fortified by his labor, shielded from ocean winds by the wild tangle of live oak and cypress that looms just beyond the yard, but mostly guarded by the strength of his will. And isn't this at least partly why she fell in love with him? This faith in the strength of his own preparations. This promise of protection. A stolid, immovable weight—the anchor secreted inside his rib cage, holding him to the earth, to Frida, to Florida. If he believes they are safe, then maybe she can, too.

Resting a hand on her huge belly, she drops the last potato into the colander and twists off the faucet. The panic that has been with her all morning sharpens. It wasn't always like this. She used to be brave. Didn't she? The woman she was feels impossibly far away now, like a dream she can't quite remember. A thump outside startles her, but it's only Kirby laying down another sandbag. This is who she is now. The anxiety has become part of her. There's something about the way the baby has been stirring today that is almost urgent enough to make her get in the truck and go north by herself. There are his keys on the table. She could just leave everything where it is: chicken already in the oven, greens on the cutting board, potatoes in the colander. Would she take her stepsons? They wouldn't come even if she wanted them to.

All morning, the roiling clouds have been wrapping tighter and tighter around the sky and now all the blue has been squeezed out of it. Out the window, she watches Kirby admire his pile of sandbags in front of the tool shed and move on to the house, so sure his preparations are impenetrable. So sure of victory against his old adversary. The big coconut palm hanging over the yard sways. Its roots are sunk deep beneath the wilderness lurking at the edge of the property, but its trunk swings out over the lawn as if the wild is reaching for the house with those big fingerlike fronds. As if it's trying to caress the family that lives here, or to crush them all. Or both. Frida knows all about beauty and violence arriving together. She's seen it up close; she knows what nature can do.

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Excerpted from The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Copyright © 2022 by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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