The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol
Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. She can no longer read the books she loves or see the paintings that move her, but her mind remains sharp and music fills the vacancy left by her blindness.
When her father’s journals are discovered on a shipwrecked boat, she enlists the help of a delinquent teen, Morgan, to read to her. As an unlikely friendship grows between them, Elizabeth is carried back to her childhood home – the isolated lighthouse on Porphyry Island, Lake Superior – and to the memory of her enigmatic twin sister Emily. But for Elizabeth, the faded pages of her father’s journals reveal more secrets than she anticipates and provide the key to a moment she has never understood. The day when she found a grave, marked with her own name…
Words alone can not express how much I love this novel. It is a beautiful, spell-binding novel. I had recently been reading psychological thrillers back to back. I decided to try something different and bought this novel online. What I would go on, to discover is that, The Lightkeeper’s Daughters are good for the soul. The novel takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, with a pairing of two unlikely protagonists. What is great about Elizabeth and Morgan is that they, truly are opposites of one another.
Yet they have so much in common….
The novel opens with Arnie Richardson stumbling across an abandoned boat called Wind Dancer. He is disheartened to find Charlie Livingstone missing. But what he finds onboard, is the basis of this novel. The journals of Elizabeth’s father.
Morgan is a young local teenager, a rebel without a cause and all round angry youth. Having recently been caught in the act of graffiti; she is coerced into completing restorative rehabilitation, at the Boreal retirement home. It is at the retirement home, that she comes across Elizabeth. Morgan is mouthy and in need of a humble approach to life. She refers to those who sent her to the home as ‘do-gooders’ and those living there as ‘rich old folk’. Morgan needs bringing back to reality and Elizabeth and her story are just the medicine she needs.
‘Fear can turn to anger so quickly; she is afraid of what life can bring and mad at the world because of it’
Elizabeth on Morgan
Elizabeth has declining eye sight, she can no longer read the newly discovered journals. Through a bizarre twist of fate, Morgan agrees to help. But Elizabeth is clever and cunning, she already has Morgan weighed up, having read her character at every interaction. When she begins to tell Morgan of her life at Porphyry Island. Morgan isn’t expecting quite the dramatic story she gets.
‘The Island was no place for the weak’
Morgan has a young boyfriend Derrick, he is a bad influence on the impressionable young teen. Morgan is desperate for love and validation and surviving foster care has taken an emotional toll on Morgan. When she begins to read the journals she has no idea, just how much the story will open her eyes and her heart.
‘I’m invisible except to the one person who is blind’ – Morgan
The journals begin in 1917 but the story they hold, echo’s long into the future. They begin with Elizabeth’s father’s first job as a lightkeeper and his eventual post at Porphyry Island. The family, mother Lil, brother’s Charlie and Peter and twin sister Emily. Life as a lightkeeper is far from easy. The family had an assistant Greyson, a damaged veteran of the Great war, who disappears under mysterious circumstances. They’ve known loss and hardship, yet their story warms your heart.
War and death can silence the strongest of men
Morgan reads the journals to Elizabeth and in turn, Elizabeth is able to expand further. The journal detailing 1930-1933 and the twins birth, is missing. Which leaves Elizabeth heartbroken, as she attempts to find some answers to questions she has had for decades. The novel covers the fierce connection between the twins, their silent language and bond. When the story seeps into Morgan’s heart; she begins to see her relationship with Derrick in a new light and the story aids her in her own ‘coming of age’ story.
The story is broken into three parts and part two ‘ghosts’ explores the possible separation of the twins and their upbringing. The discussion between Elizabeth and Morgan covers various themes; as told by the various characters in Elizabeth’s past. Whether it’s the mental trauma of ww2 on soldiers or the mental strength needed to live in near seclusion on the Island. But nothing can prepare you for the moment Elizabeth comes across her own grave stone…..
‘I was left to exist as a ghost’
Morgan and Elizabeth debate the need to know your past.
Why does Elizabeth desire the answers now, in her old age?
“Don’t you think that when you know your past, it can make a difference to your present? And your future too?”
The sentimental message of the story hits deep with Morgan. She has never known her biological parents. She was raised by her grandfather, whom she misses deeply. When he passed away, there was no one else to care for her and she began her journey in the care system. As the story continues to develop, the friendship between Elizabeth and Morgan goes from strength to strength. Perhaps Morgan has found the unlikeliest of friends, in the unlikeliest of places.
“Love blinds us. It is a thief”
“There is, perhaps, more of the story you need to know”
Life on the Island of Porphyry is tough.
For Elizabeth and Emily, a lone wolf, stalks their every move.
For me personally the novel brought back many, many happy memories. It reminded me of deep conversations with my own grandmother. The lessons she would inadvertently teach me, with her stories of her past and people she had known.
I found those aspects of the story very moving.
I would describe the novel as modern literary with historical roots. The story of the The Lightkeeper’s Daughters, is incredibly powerful and haunting. The secrets of the past brought tears to my eyes and it will be a story, I won’t forget.