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One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children—and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly ...
One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children—and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And—far from the outside world and society’s rules—his place in Emily’s life, as steadfast now as the light, will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.
Excerpted from The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady Copyright © 2012 by Joanna Brady. Excerpted by permission.
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Learning to Love History
While I liked history in school, I can’t say I was ever so interested in it that I would actually pick up a nonfiction history book to read. But that has certainly changed over the years. College, traveling, and living in Europe has given me a deep appreciation for history. I now have a better understanding of Faulkner’s quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Or Alphonse Karr’s quip: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they do remain the same.
Because my father was an amateur historian, I grew up in a home that was filled with historical novels and history books. Now, I think most of the books I read are historical fiction, and increasingly nonfiction history. What I find fascinating about them is how revisionist they are. The line between the truth and stories about the truth often becomes blurred, until you realize that we’ll never know what really happened.
This is one of the reasons it took me so long to write The Woman at the Light. Not many books had been written about early Key West, and writing my book took quite a lot of research. For an author to write about England or France, or Russia, say, where the story of the past has been pretty well documented and the role of the historian has been mostly to interpret what went on before, it is easier to work with. But the history of an obscure little place like Key West produces only sketchy details.
Along the way, I learned a lot about the laws governing slaves, about the status of women, miscegenation, and the disparity between the states on the subject of slavery. I was fascinated to learn about what it was like to tend a lighthouse, to deal with the unpredictability of weather, and about the wrecking and salvaging industry in the Keys. Life could be harsh in a frontier island town at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Tormented by mosquitoes and no-see-ums, with no electricity or running water, no respite from the tropical sun, and no means of communicating with the rest of the world, living in Key West would have been misery. An area of virtually unexplored territory like that can be very exciting for a writer.
In Key West, much of the history was reinvented, and I was sometimes faced with having to choose which version of a story I wanted to believe. For example, nobody knows for sure how many children Barbara Mabrity actually had. Some books said five, some said six. Some say all her children were drowned when the lighthouse was blown over during the hurricane of 1846. Other versions say that would have been impossible as she would have been in her sixties then and her children were probably grown-up and had possibly moved away.
Faced with discrepancies like these, an author looking for enhancement to a plot will pick the version that makes for the best story! And this I confess I did in The Woman at the Light.
Posted July 3, 2012
I love lighthouses, so when I found out this book was about lighthouses I grabbed the chance to read it. The main concept of the story is the disappearance of Emily Lowry's husband Martin. He leaves one day to go out to sea and just does not return. Emily hopes against hope that he will return, but as time goes by, the likely hood of that happening grows slim. Emily is left with three children and one on the way and is also responsible for the maintenance of the lighthouse and seeing that it is lit every night. If this is not done, ships could wreck upon the coral reefs that abound in the area.
After the appearance of a runaway slave, Andrew, the lives of Emily and her children change irrevocably. Because of the morals of the time she decides that when someone comes ashore she must hide Andrew. Life is more bearable with Andrew around to help her with the light and other work needed around the island. She and her children become quite attached to Andrew, but life changes again for Emily when a hurricane threatens her life, the children and Andrew. But still in the background is the issue of Martin. What happened to him? Is he still alive??
I loved the characters, especially Emily, a strong willed and capable woman who must do what she can to protect those she loves. A totally readable story, rich with the history of Key West and surrounding islands in a time that is full of conflicting feelings toward slavery. The history of the shipwrecks and the salvaging of these wrecks is also a part of the story. There is definitely an element of romance, along with loss and family devotion and love. I highly recommend this novel.
I give it 5 stars...
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Posted September 30, 2013
This was a wonderfully written book and I highly recommend it. The story is so fascinating to me because I had the pleasure of visiting Key West. In fact, I bought this book from a lady in a gift shop there who had just finished it. The story is great because the reader will get a great sense of what the original Key West was like. Also, you become very enamored of the main character and all her trials and tribulations. Believe me, you will not be able to put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2013
Posted December 27, 2012
Posted November 23, 2012
Posted August 3, 2012
This was such an interesting book, I loved the setting I felt like I was on this isolated island with Emily and just the name Wreckers Cay brought to mind the waves and rocks and I could just picture it in my head . I guess I never realized that so many widows took over the lighthouse duties after their husband’s had died I found it fascinating. I also liked how this book dealt with the race relations at the time I found it very honest. It was also fascinating to see the city of Key West come to be what it was, and what Cuba was like in the 1800’s. I also thought the love story was well done and added to the story and didn’t detract from it. Emily was such a strong woman with a mind of her own and I am glad I got to see a glimpse into her life. I like how she made mistakes and had an attitude well this was the choice you made you better make the most of it. I had a hard time putting this book down as I just wanted to see what would happen in Emily’s life next and through all her heartbreaks and triumphs I cheered for her and wished her well. This is a very well written story and I would read more from this author; in the author’s note she says she won a grant from the Florida Council for the Arts to write this book so hooray to them for seeing the talent in this new author and for giving me the opportunity to read this book. I received this book from the Librarything Early Reviewer Program. 4 StarsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 30, 2012
Posted July 5, 2012
The Woman at the Light is a tale of tragedy, perseverance, and love set in 19th century Key West.
In 1839, Emily Lowry lives on Wrecker’s Cay off the Florida coast with her children and husband, the lighthouse keeper One day, her husband disappears from a boating trip and is presumed dead. She is alone on the isolated Cay forced to fend for herself and her 4 children. Desperate to support her family and avoid being displaced by the authorities who do not believe a woman can manage a lighthouse, she works hard to continue her husband’s work, but a far less of a salary. Her life becomes complicated when a black man escapes from a slave ship and swims to Wrecker’s Cay. He helps her manage the light house, work, and helps care for her children. They soon fall in love and she finds herself expecting a child with him.
With plenty of plot twists and continual tension, this story is definitely engrossing and offers plenty of entertainment - a strong determined heroine, forbidden love, murder, mystery, duplicity, tragedy, resilience, prejudices, and love!
Beautifully written and wonderfully researched, author Joanna Brady convincingly recreates a rare setting and era, never before fictionalized. Historical facts pertaining to Seminole Indians, the slave trade, cigar making, and the actual work and responsibilities of light house keepers make were skilfully interwove with fascinating fictional characters and events to make a compelling story.
For readers who love historical fiction that take place in unique settings, this is one debut novel you should not miss. A lovely novel!
Posted October 12, 2012
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Posted February 19, 2013
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