Monday, January 20, 2014

Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

Lighthouse Island: A Novel by Paulette Jiles --- 392 pages

Paulette Jiles may be best known in Missouri for her first published novel, Enemy Women, which dealt with Confederate women who were imprisoned in St. Louis during the Civil War because of their support for the Southern cause. It was an early selection for the ReadMOre program (a statewide One Book One Read effort), and Jiles' interpretation of the historical record created some controversy among Civil War enthusiasts and local historical societies.

Jiles went on to a career as a novelist, poet and memoirist. Lighthouse Island, set in an arid and overpopulated future, is a new direction for her --- set in the future instead of the past. This combination of social dystopia, heroic quest and lyrical love story may seem improbable but somehow manages to coalesce around wonderfully drawn characters: the orphan Nadia fighting to survive, the disabled cartographer James struggling to walk, and the people they meet along their way. But the dominant feature of the book is the lighthouse itself, its beacon light illuminating the darkness, an elusive promise of the better life Nadia and James have gambled everything to reach. Jiles is currently at work on a sequel.

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