Light from a Distant Star

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Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s "Scout."

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence – gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. His family’s century old hardware store is failing and Nellie’s mother has had to ...

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Light from a Distant Star: A Novel

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Overview

Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s "Scout."

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence – gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. His family’s century old hardware store is failing and Nellie’s mother has had to go back to work. Nellie’s older half-sister has launched a disturbing search for her birth father. Often saddled through the long, hot days with her timid younger brother, Henry, Nellie is determined to toughen him up. And herself as well.

Three strangers enter Nellie’s protected life. Brooding Max Devaney is an ex-con who works in her surly grandfather’s junkyard. Reckless Bucky Saltonstall has just arrived from New York City to live with his elderly grandparents. And pretty Dolly Bedelia is a young stripper who rents the family’s small, rear apartment and becomes the titillating focus of Nellie’s eavesdropping.

When violence erupts in the lovely Peck house, the prime suspect seems obvious. Nellie knows who the real murderer is, but is soon silenced by fear and the threat of scandal. The truth, as she sees it, is shocking and unthinkable, and with everyone’s eyes riveted on her in the courtroom, Nellie finds herself seized with doubt.

No one will listen. No one believes her, and a man’s life hangs in the balance. A stunning evocation of innocence lost, Light from a Distant Star stands as an incredibly moving and powerful novel from one of America's finest writers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her latest, Morris (Songs in Ordinary Time) offers a timeless and timely look at small town life, as seen by wise, verbose, and intensely naïve thirteen-year-old heroine Nellie Peck. Set in the town of Springvale during the summer before Nellie begins middle school, Morris ably juggles compelling storylines and characters. The Peck family faces financial ruin: Nellie's father, busy writing a history of their town, neglects his hardware store, but refuses to sell it; her mother takes in a boarder, stripper Dolly Bedelia, to help pay the bills. Bucky Saltonstall, a new boy in town, turns out to be a cruel liar and a thief. Nellie's junkyard-owning grandfather, Charlie, has hired an ex-convict handyman, Max. When Dolly is found murdered in her apartment, suspicion quickly falls on Max, but Nellie knows that Dolly had been secretly seeing wealthy businessman Andy Cooper. No one believes Nellie's version; worse still, Cooper happens to be the potential buyer for her father's store. While supporting figures, like Nellie's father Benjamin, are well-developed, others, like Bucky and Charlie, remain one-dimensional. However, Morris' page-turner, (which evokes To Kill a Mockingbird) will satisfy her fans and send new readers searching for her earlier titles. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
A timeless and timely look at small town life….Morris' page-turner, (which evokes To Kill a Mockingbird) will satisfy her fans and send new readers searching for her earlier titles.”--The Washington Post

"Morris' finely crafted prose—simple and lyrical—captures perfectly that sliver of pre-adolescence when the very world around us seems to shudder and shift, when the adults we admire suddenly reveal their flaws, and everything we treasure seems to be slipping away."--Associated Press

“A timeless and timely look at small town life….Morris' page-turner, (which evokes To Kill a Mockingbird) will satisfy her fans and send new readers searching for her earlier titles.”--Publishers Weekly 

“Mary McGarry Morris doesn't so much tell a story as spin a delicate and powerful web. With her elegant prose, beautifully drawn characters, and perfect pitch dialog, she lured me in.  And with her intense and gripping plot, she had me ensnared.  I was in love with the sensitive, smart and plucky Nellie from the very first moment I met her and I'll be thinking of her for a good long time.  Light From a Distant Star is a wonderful, powerful novel not to be missed.”--Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Fragile

"Literary accolades, film adaptations, praise from Oprah—Andover’s Mary McGarry Morris has earned them all for her suspenseful novels focused on small-town life."--Boston Magazine

"It’s impossible to set aside “Light From a Distant Star” once you begin...a riveting read."--Washington Missourian 

Library Journal
Best-selling author Morris's latest work (after The Last Secret) is intended as a multilayered family narrative complicated by murder, but it fails to deliver. Suffering a financial crisis, the Pecks are forced to sell the family hardware store and are also having problems with their tenant, Dolly Bedelia, a pole dancer at the local strip club. The first half of the book sets up the family drama but is overstuffed with secondary characters and plots. Add to that the not very believable 13-year-old protagonist, Nellie Peck, who witnesses something she shouldn't. The tension in the second half hinges on Nellie's keeping a secret that is so implausible it's like watching a contemporary horror film in which none of the characters owns a cell phone. VERDICT This is a bloated and unbelievable work, lacking in both depth and suspense. It is a tribute to Morris's writing that despite these flaws the novel moves at a brisk pace, and most readers, even those who will be frustrated by it, will finish it. Recommended with reservations for Morris's fans. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. of Maryland, St. Mary's City
Library Journal
With her father's business in trouble and her mother now working, 13-year-old Nellie is the determined caretaker of her little brother. The adults she does encounter, like the stripper who rents an apartment at the back of the house, upend her life further. Then, a moment of violence lands Nellie in court as witness, where no one believes the awful truth she's trying to relay. As evidenced by her many novels, e.g., National Book Award nominee Vanished, Morris excels at family dramas with dark and tingly psychological twists, so I'm betting that this will be absorbingly good.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307451866
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

MARY MCGARRY MORRIS was a National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award finalist for her first novel Vanished, published in 1988.  A Dangerous Woman, published in 1991, was chosen by Time magazine as one of the "Five Best Novels of the Year" and was made into a major motion picture.  Her next novel Songs In Ordinary Time was a CBS television movie as well as an Oprah Book Club selection in 1997, propelling it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list as well as making it an international bestseller.
Since then she has written four highly acclaimed novels, the most recent of which was The Last Secret, published by Crown in 2009. She lives in Massachusetts.
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Customer Reviews

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    Posted October 31, 2012

    Knock in door

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    Posted October 26, 2012

    IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALI (LAST NAME UNKNOWN)

    We have been excepted to teach at Starlight Academey!!!!! Your dance class can b held in any result of star school

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    Posted November 21, 2012

    Chido

    Ran outside and ali sat down next to andy.

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    Becca

    Ill miss u too. Ill visit sometimes. Bye. She left.

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