The Effects of Light

The Effects of Light

4.0 2
by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

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"Throughout their childhood, Myla and Pru Wolfe pose for a haunting series of photographs, many involving nudity. Young, beautiful, and motherless, the sisters bond fiercely in their shared sense of loss, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and status as favorite subjects for family friend and photographer Ruth Handel. The photographs fire each girl's psyche with a…  See more details below


"Throughout their childhood, Myla and Pru Wolfe pose for a haunting series of photographs, many involving nudity. Young, beautiful, and motherless, the sisters bond fiercely in their shared sense of loss, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and status as favorite subjects for family friend and photographer Ruth Handel. The photographs fire each girl's psyche with a sense of artistic accomplishment." Unitl their world irrevocably shifts. Thirteen years later, Myla receives a mysterious communication that calls her back to her past. Awkwardly fleeing the one man who has managed to pierce her defenses, she flies home to Oregon, where a series of packages are sent to her in measured installments. They are time bombs of revelations, and artifacts that force her to relive - and come to terms with - the event that changed her family forever.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beverly-Whittemore investigates the relationship between art and life in an engaging but uneven debut that reveals both her promise and her youth (she was born in 1976). As children, Myla Wolfe and her now deceased sister, Pru, posed for a series of provocative photographs. Because of an unnamed (but aggressively insinuated) tragedy, Myla has spent her adult life as a history professor named Kate Scott (though an unconvincing one: "So much passion over something so potentially boring: medieval research!... She felt lost in ideas"). A mysterious letter and a colleague's lecture draw her back to her hometown, where she tries to put together the puzzle of her dead father's academic work, reconnect with those she left behind, rediscover herself as Myla and forge a new love with the aforementioned colleague. Her quest is juxtaposed with the parallel narrative of the tragedy's buildup, as told by her dead sister. Beverly-Whittemore gets points for her ambitious plot, but a naive intellectual enthusiasm overwhelms the novel, and in trying to incorporate too many heavy themes, she obscures the novel's focus: is this a mystery? an allegory? a graduate student essay? At one point, Myla recalls how her father congratulated her for refusing to learn to read yet, thus demonstrating that "she wasn't ready... to lose the big picture." Beverly-Whittemore doesn't seem ready to lose it, either-but next time, perhaps she'll exert more control over her far-reaching visions. Agent, Anne Hawkins. 4-city author tour. (Feb. 2) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
First novelist Beverly-Whittemore tells the story of Myla and Prudence Wolfe, who are raised after the death of their mother by their academic father and his offbeat collection of friends. At a very young age, the sisters become "camera girls" for family friend and photographer Ruth Handel. Too young to see that society could take issue with their often nude depictions, the girls are sheltered from the media maelstrom that Ruth's gallery showing fuels. It isn't until many years later, when Prudence is dead and Myla is living across the country under an assumed name, that the entire story of the past begins to unfold. Told in alternating time frames by each girl, this novel shows Myla learning that good intentions and independent thinking may have led to disastrous results as she returns home to confront the ghosts of her past. A smoothly written narrative makes this an excellent choice for most public libraries, and it should be popular where novels dealing with family crisis and personal growth have a following. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/04.]-Leann Restaino, Jameson Health Syst. Lib., New Castle, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thought-provoking debut about a young woman attempting to untangle a tortured and confused past. After living under a false name and identity for 20 years, East Coast academic Myla Wolfe returns to her childhood home in the Pacific Northwest to face her demons: the memories surrounding a controversial exhibition of photographs featuring herself and her late sister in various stages of undress and/or nude, taken when they were children. The result was a barrage of humiliating attention and the death of the sister, although not until the very end is the connection between the photos and the death made clear. Were the pictures art? Pornography? Clearly, the photographer believed they were art, as did the girls' father, an art history professor profoundly committed to freedom of expression and the notion of relativism-the idea that there are multiple and equally valid interpretations to virtually everything, especially works of art. Still, Myla believes her father, now long dead, betrayed them by allowing the photographs to be taken, unwittingly using his daughters as pawns to reflect his cultural politics. In addition to grappling with a boyfriend, another academic who has his own agenda in connection with the photographs, Myla begins sorting through her father's papers in an effort to understand him. And in the end, she buys into his thesis that things are always more complicated than they seem, accepting the idea, offered by a family friend, that her father allowed the pictures to be shot for personal, not cultural, reasons having to do with his late wife. This revelation, like many others, comes out of thin air. Entertaining but schematic, with characters' motivations often sounexpected as to be nearly implausible. Agent: Anne Hawkins/John Hawkins & Associates

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Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

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Effects of Light 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ANRich More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The plot is different from anything I have ever read. There was something very refreshing about the subject-matter. The development of the main character was also interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel expertly combines a very personal and moving narrative with a series of though-provoking theories about art. It has actually changed my perspective on art and inspired me to learn more about art history and theory. I was moved to tears throughout most of my reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderfully unique novel with characters that I came to really care for. While that has happened to me before, what hasn't is that I felt like I wanted to be involved in their conversations, weigh in on their thoughts and be involved in the dialogue. This story gave me new ideas and really got inside my head. It is beautifully written and I can't wait for more from Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was given an advance copy of this book by a friend, after he insisted that I must read it immediately. I read a lot of popular fiction, and this was by far one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. The basic story is crafted as a page-turning mystery, and it was one that kept me reading for multiple hours at a time (which I rarely do). But beyond that it is a beautifully written, emotional story about love, fear and forgiveness. People seem to be calling it ambitious for a first novelist, but that's what I loved about it so much. This book made me think about things in new ways, something I don't come across very often in today's new fiction. I can't wait for more from Beverly-Whittemore.