Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Woman At The Light by Joanna Brady

I don't know what to make of this novel.  I've thought about it for a day before writing this post, and I still don't know how I feel!  

The main character is Emily Lowry, a young woman from New Orleans who's married to Martin Lowry and lives at a lighthouse on Wrecker's Cay near Key West in the 1830's.  She's the mother of three children and another one on the way when one morning Martin leaves in a boat to fish and never comes back.  

Emily is determined to stay at the lighthouse and collect a salary since she really has no where else to go and doesn't want to fall on the mercy of family in Key West.  She convinces the authorities to let her stay, taking care of the lighthouse and providing a crucial service to the ships sailing close by the dangerous reefs that surround the Keys.  

A few months after her husband has disappeared, Emily still holds hope he is  alive, but she's struggling to keep everything moving smoothly on Wrecker's Cay.  And then Andrew shows up.  He's a runaway slave who jumped ship during a storm and made it ashore.  Emily soon realizes he's a gentle man who is willing to help around the island in exchange for a place to sleep and food.  He quickly proves himself invaluable to Emily as her pregnancy advances and their feelings for one another change into dangerous territory.  After all, it is 1839; the South is firmly entrenched in the slave economy and love between a white woman and a black man is forbidden.  

Oh, the stuff that happens to Emily!  This truly is a soap opera of a novel.  I absolutely loved the history of Key West, the information on women lighthouse keepers (most of them widows), and the tropical feel of this novel.  Emily's life has major ups and downs, lost love, money, hurricanes, family deaths, and just about everything else tossed in to make her life far from boring.  She's the Erica Kane of Key West.  

So did I enjoy this novel?  Well, it wasn't what I expected.  I had no idea I was in for such a ride with Emily.  Do I like Emily?  Kinda sorta.  She is an admirable woman, but at the same time she irritated me a bit with some of her completely stupid behavior.  It takes her awhile to become a strong woman and make choices of her own, but she does.  I felt like it should have taken place in 1888 not 1839--it seemed a bit historically out of whack with Emily's thinking and ability to take command in situations where a woman would not have had a chance to decide.

If you like historical fiction with  a bit of soap opera involved, try this.  It's got it all and you will not be bored.  I think I was expecting more of a serious novel that all took place at the lighthouse, since it's such a major part of the story.  I found myself rolling my eyes a few times at some of Emily's antics but after thinking about this novel for the past day, I will say my overall opinion is one of more enjoyment than annoyance.  

Rating:  3/5 for the history of Key West and the author's ability to put you in a young Key West!  I want to go there.  And while there are sad moments in the novel, they are not overwhelming.  

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