The Knackered Parents' Book Club reviews 'The Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean Pendziwol.

Hello everyone, I hope March is treating you well. It is March madness at my house, with tantrums and volatile reactions to the wrong plate colour seemingly a daily endurance. Bringing up small people often leaves me feeling overwhelmed; not just from the physical daily demands, but by the staggering responsibility of shaping someone else’s life. Our latest book here at the Knackered Parent’s Book Club is The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, by Jean Pendziwol. At its core is the idea that everyone needs to belong. But how much does our past shape our future identity?

The novel is set in Canada, and the islands surrounding Lake Superior, spanning the 1920s to present day. A troubled teenager, doing community service in Boreal Retirement Home, is drawn to an old, blind lady called Elizabeth and she ends up reading her father’s diary to her. As Elizabeth’s past unravels, we learn how it has haunted her and how it has shaped, not just hers, but Morgan’s future.

I found something quite spellbinding about this novel. It draws you in to Elizabeth and Emily’s strange existence at the lighthouse, on the lake. The mystery surrounding the twins’ past is reflected in the lake and the dramatic landscape surrounding it. Provincial Park is described as ‘a giant slumbering in a cradle of icy water’. The landscape is at once threatening and inhospitable. We as reader’s get a sense of danger. When will the ‘giant’ wake up? When will the truth come out and secrets be revealed?

Nature and animals play a big part in the novel. In the retirement home Elizabeth says ‘But lately, there has been a wolf wandering my dreams’. The word 'wondering' implies the wolf is restless and is looking for something or somebody. Could that somebody be Emily? She describes its ‘cold yellow eyes’, yellow eyes that she saw years ago when Emily wondered out onto the ice as a child, ‘catching those piercing yellow eyes with her striking grey ones’. There is something supernatural about the wolves and Emily's connection to them. Emily doesn't speak, but she seems to be able to communicate with the natural world, in a way others are unable to do. Her vivid art and connection to nature show her to be one of the most perceptive characters in the novel.

Sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us. Elizabeth is blind, but she is able to see Morgan for who she is. She is finally able to confront the secrets of the past. The novel is full of ghosts. Through the diary entries we can hear the voices of the past brought back to life. I wonder again how much our past shapes our future. What makes us feel a sense of belonging? It seems to me that the strings that tie us to our identity are fragile and one thoughtless act can easily shatter everything.

Um… pressure then with the whole parenting thing.

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