Published by Harper on July 4th 2017
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Morgan is a teenager who lived with her grandfather until he passed away. Since then she has been living in foster homes and has created a hard exterior to keep others at bay. She doesn’t like to appear as if she cares about anything but there is one thing she cares about- the violin that once belonged to her grandfather. He taught her to play and she treasures it and its contents. Morgan gets into a little trouble when she paints graffiti a fence at a home for the elderly. She must make amends by painting the fence.
“You know,” he said, “when you paint over something, everything that was there before isn’t really gone. It’s still there. All the layers of color, the scrapes and dents, even the bare wood hiding beneath, they shape what’s painted on top, inspire it even, but they don’t define it. That’s up to the painter.”
Elizabeth has been a resident of the home for the elderly for some time. Her eyesight has failed but her mind and her memory are still sharp. She has formed a friendship with Marty, a caretaker at the home and he frequently will quiz her on art and music. She likes to brag that he has never trumped her. Her hearing has been sharpened and she has learned the steps and sounds of those around her. She is intrigued by Morgan who is being supervised in re-painting the fence by her friend, Marty.
When a boat capsizes, Elizabeth’s father’s journals have been found and returned to her. Unfortunately, she cannot read them, and she desperately wants to know what her father has written. She convinces Morgan to read the journals to her, in return she will give Morgan one of the paintings that she has on her nightstand. Morgan is drawn to the paintings as she her grandfather had a similar one under the material of his violin case.
“Like the raindrops falling outside, one by one they fill the gaps until the memories pool together and flood through me.”
As Morgan begins to read, Elizabeth’s story comes alive. Elizabeth was raised on Porphyry Island and her father was the lighthouse keeper. As each journal entry is read, the reader learns more about Elizabeth and her family but mainly about Elizabeth and her twin sister, Emily. Both Morgan and Elizabeth bond over the reading of the journals. Morgan wants to know more about Elizabeth and Elizabeth has keen insight into the life of a teenage girl.
What is it with lighthouses?
I seriously loved this book. I loved how the past and present story-lines flowed naturally and the transition from one to the next was seamless. With dual story-lines, we know that they are going to connect in some way, and it is the how and the why that really works here. The writing was so beautiful and the descriptions so vivid, that I felt as if I were right there on the island and in the home with the characters. I loved Elizabeth’s and Emily’s story-line, it was beautiful, sad, full of hope and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Besides the smooth transitions, I loved the unfolding of the story and watching the bonding between Morgan and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was sharp, witty and not afraid to ruffle some feathers at the home for Morgan to spend time in her room. For someone who could not see, she saw more than most people. She had great insight and had Morgan’s number right away. She saw past the hard exterior and sarcastic nature of Morgan and knew inside she was a young woman dealing with loss and pain. Elizabeth also served as a strong female character which Morgan needed in her life. Plus, as the mystery of Elizabeth’s life unfolded, Morgan began to learn more about her own life as well.
The Author has created characters that readers will fall in love with or dislike instantly. I loved every single page of this book. From the setting, the characters, the descriptions, the art, the music, the mystery, the personalities, they all were quite perfect. I was instantly drawn in and captivated by this book. When I lived in Massachusetts, I visited several lighthouses and my family had one we visited every couple of months, it was quite easy to imagine the one in this book and I could see the family climbing the stairs to make sure everything was working and to protect the ships on Lake Superior. Being able to transport a reader to your setting, takes great skill and Pendziwol has it.
I highly recommend this book!
Shortlisted for the 2018 Northern Lit Award