First Light

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Overview

In a novel of extraordinary resonance and power, Charles Baxter takes us backward through the lives of Hugh and Dorsey Welch, a brother and sister born and raised in a small Michigan town. We meet them as adults - Dorsey , an eminent astrophysicist, Hugh a quiet unassuming Buick salesman in their hometown - and discover their pasts: difficult marriages, dark and destructive love affairs, moments of triumph, of disappointment, of sheer joy.

As he traces their paths back to the ...

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First Light

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Overview

In a novel of extraordinary resonance and power, Charles Baxter takes us backward through the lives of Hugh and Dorsey Welch, a brother and sister born and raised in a small Michigan town. We meet them as adults - Dorsey , an eminent astrophysicist, Hugh a quiet unassuming Buick salesman in their hometown - and discover their pasts: difficult marriages, dark and destructive love affairs, moments of triumph, of disappointment, of sheer joy.

As he traces their paths back to the day of Dorsey's birth, Baxter reveals the experiences that put such a distance between Hugh and Dorsey, and the ties of imperfect love that bind them together. And as Paul Auster has written, "gradually we begin to understand that Baxter is telling our own story, that this is how our own lives are formed within us."

A car dealer who has never left his Michigan hometown and his younger sister, a brilliant astrophysicist, reunite in this magnificent achievement by "one of the finest of American writers."--Boston Globe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Having published two books of short stories, Baxter does a masterful job of combining form with function in his first novel. The story begins with a Fourth of July celebration. Dorsey Welch and her husband, Simon, an actor, are spending the holiday with Dorsey's brother, Hugh. The visit is awkward. Years, distance and experience separate brother and sister. Dorsey, always the smart one, is a professor of astrophysics. Her brother, once a promising athlete, is now a car salesman. Simon exacerbates the situation; a sly, insinuating man, he continually mocks his stolid brother-in-law. Chapter by chapter, the story moves back in time, through the siblings' college years, their adolescence and childhood, to Hugh's first glimpse of his baby sister, exploring the things that shaped these people. The characterizations here are superb, as is the writing. There are no fireworks in this story, apart from the Fourth of July pyrotechnics, but this imaginatively conceived, evocative novel will hold the reader's attention from first to last. (September 8)
Library Journal
As an astrophysicist Dorsey Welch studies the origins of the universe and the gravitational forces that make it cohere. Similarly, this novel moves backward in time to trace the evolving antagonisms and the bonds of love between Dorsey and her brother Hugh. At one point Hugh says to his sister, ``You always go . . . I always stay,'' and this simple statement sums up their radically different lives. Hugh remains in the small town where they were born, lives in the house inherited from his parents, and sells Buicks. Dorsey travels to California, bears the child of an eccentric professor, and marries an even more eccentric actor. Bridging all these differences, however, is a powerfully evoked sense of family. Baxter's style is sharp and elegant, and his characters are convincing. Albert E. Wilhelm, English Dept., Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Elizabeth Tallent
"A intricately reflective, simply beautiful book." -- Los Angeles Times
Michiko Kakutani
"A remarkable supple novel that gleams with a smoky chiaroscuro, a familiar love we recall through time." -- The New York Times
From the Publisher
“A remarkably supple novel that gleams with the smoky chiaroscuro of family love.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times 
 
“A novel of great emotional power, of heart-twisting intimacy and intellectual force.” —Newsday  
 
“An intricately reflective, simply beautiful book.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Only a virtuoso could manage such a narrative, and Baxter is and does.” —The Washington Post Book World
 
“A book one reads with pleasure from the first word to the last for the delicacy and truth of its perceptions.” —J. M. Coetzee
 
“[Baxter’s] prose is like filtered late-summer light dancing through leaves not quite turned yet—a light bathed with sadness, humor, and a clear, intelligent intensity.” —USA Today 
 
First Light is a novel that moves backward in time, traveling from past to present as though through a tunnel of memory. . . . Like Chekhov, [Baxter] is both tough-minded and compassionate, and he never makes his characters more or less than what they are. They are human, and that in itself is a rare achievement for a writer, a thing to be celebrated above and beyond all other achievements in this splendid book.” —Paul Auster
 
“Here is a voice worth listening to, a voice that has shown itself, in this wonderful, magical novel, to command the music of the spheres.” —San Jose Mercury News
 
“Without question, Charles Baxter is among our best contemporary writers—always graceful, always dramatic. Superlatives are insufficient. Here is literature. Here is art.” —Tim O’Brien
 
“Charles Baxter asks the most wonderful questions and addresses the most essential subjects—the things we have been thinking but haven’t . . . known how to begin to say.” —Francine Prose
 
“It’s exceedingly rare to come across writing as seamless and engrossing as Charles Baxter’s.” —The Plain Dealer
 
“Light and dark, the motifs of Baxter’s haunting and human fiction touch the reader in evocative ways.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Baxter’s passionate writing raises the level of regard for life itself, let alone the art of writing.” —Howard Norman
 
“Moves over everyday details with the inexorable, contrary tug of memory.” —Time
 
First Light illuminates the way out of the abyss and into the miracles and wonders that comprise life.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
First Light is a daredevil technical feat, and very much more besides that. Charles Baxter’s long-term admirers will find that it satisfies their highest hopes.” —Madison Smartt Bell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140100914
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Baxter
Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), The Soul Thief, Saul and Patsy, and Shadow Play, and the collections Gryphon, Believers, A Relative Stranger, Through the Safety Net, and Harmony of the World. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 13, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B. A., Macalester College, 1969; Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 1974
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2004

    A beautiful novel

    'First Light' is a unique and beautiful story about family and the relationships that define who we are. Baxter's writing is, as always, luminous and yet full of longing. He is a master of creating characters whose lives become intertwined with our own. This book is a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2000

    Read and loved it in a lit course

    I read this book about 7 years ago in college - time has drained some of the details from my memory, but the pleasure I got from reading it has stayed with me, so much so that I may buy it again. I heard the author speak not long after reading it and enjoyed that, too. The backwards narrative technique, in my opinion, is the best part about the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    Firestar

    Sorry i wasnt on but i will be on all day tommorow so ask me any ?'s you have

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    Alpha

    Gets up and stretches walking out

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    stirring

    When I got to the end of this novel I cried for twenty minutes, it was so beautiful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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