In The Lightkeepers, we follow Miranda, a nature photographer who travels to the Farallon Islands, an exotic and dangerous archipelago off the coast of California, for a one-year residency capturing the landscape. Her only companions are the scientists studying there, odd and quirky refugees from the mainland living in rustic conditions; they document the fish populations around the island, the bold trio of sharks called the Sisters that hunt the surrounding waters, and the overwhelming bird population that, at times, creates the need to wear hard hats as protection from their attacks.
Shortly after her arrival, Miranda is assaulted by one of the inhabitants of the islands. A few days later, her assailant is found dead, perhaps the result of an accident. As the novel unfolds, Miranda gives witness to the natural wonders of this special place as she grapples with what has happened to her and deepens her connection to (and her suspicions of) her companions, all while falling under the thrall of the legends of the place nicknamed "the Islands of the Dead". And when more violence occurs, each member of this strange community falls under suspicion.
The Lightkeepers upends the traditional structure of a mystery novel - an isolated environment, a limited group of characters who might not be trustworthy, a death that may or may not have been accidental, a balance of discovery and action - while also exploring wider themes of the natural world, the power of loss, and the nature of recovery. It is a luminous debut novel from a talented and provocative new writer.
©2016 Abby Geni (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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"Mystery, thriller, and nature all done very well"
Before reading The Lightkeepers, Andrea Barrett was the only author I had read who could evoke science and the natural world in beautiful, almost poetic, prose, but I was pleased to discover that Abby Geni has that same skill. She tells the story of six biologists and Miranda, a nature photographer, living together on the Farallon Islands, a wildlife refuge 30 miles off the coast of California. This setting is perfect for a book that has a bit of everything, mystery, psychological thriller, wildlife, and wilderness, and does all of them well. The Lightkeepers is an interesting and unique story about the quirky humans trying to live on the island, observe, not interact, and take only what they need, and the birds, mice, bats, seals, whales, and sharks that are the real inhabitants of the island. Geni states that "one of the great illusions of the human experience is that we are somehow outside of nature — beyond the food chain — that we are not animals ourselves. I hope to both explore and challenge that illusion." She does this incredibly well in this 4.5 star book.
Xe Sands is the impeccably perfect narrator for this book. There were several instances where I felt as if she was indeed Miranda, speaking directly to me. I've never done this before, but I will be making one of my next Audible book choices based primarily on Xe Sands being the narrator.
"Spooky and Strange"
Before you decide on trying this book do yourself a favor and do an internet search for the Farallon Islands and research the place where the action occurs. There is a serious mixed history for this location. Also, be aware that the level of creepiness in this tale by far surpasses the mystery in the story. The book is heavily and weirdly first person narrative which complicates what is a fairly straight forward story. Wild nature and wild humans run amuck. Island life is captured. Confusion and mayhem reign. Sands delivers an emotional reading which is at times hard to understand but at the same time compelling. An interesting diversion. In the end a very strange book.
"Don't Understand the Hype"
I really wanted to like this book. It got great review, it's on everyone's "must read" list. But let me tell you two very important things: 1) This book is NOT a mystery or thriller. It's a drama with a very tiny dash of "whodunit" (and you start to wonder if ANYONE did "do it" or if the plot is all just a series of accidents). 2) This narrator, Xe Sands, has the most annoying, disconcerting vocal fry. I honestly could barely stand to listen to this book. Sorry, Xe, I'm sure you're lovely in real life, but your voice is GRATING. Also the narrator's tone and cadence only adds to the depressing nature of this book, which slowed down the action for me.
The setting of the Faralon Islands is fascinating, but the story focuses too much -- for me -- on the various animals, how they breed, etc., etc. I got bored of the animal-and-nature focus after about 1/3 of the way in and kept waiting for the THRILLER part to start. It never really does. I'm not saying things don't happen -- there's violence and people die. But the ending (the wrap up) is 100% a cop-out. I truly felt cheated, especially after I stuck with this and slogged through to the end.
At times, the writing was engaging. The author is clearly a budding talent. But approach this story as a drama and maybe actually read it, so you can avoid having your ear vocal fried off.
"Lovely cover art..."
Narrator's voice was incredibly hard to listen to - I will avoid her in the future.
Plot was intriguing at first, but verged on the ridiculous as the book went on.
"A little sleeper of a mystery"
I chose it because I had read previous non-fiction on the Farallon Islands. Its a blend of both and at times I forgot I was reading a novel and not listening to someone's real life diary. Its a interesting mystery too that you will think about after you finish. You may even "rewind" and listen to the end again just to be sure. A definite recommend in every way.
"Intriguing, Moody, Atmospheric--I Loved It!"
If you peruse the reviews, you will figure out this book is not for everyone. But for me, it was an absorbing and memorable listen.
I took a bird/whale watching trip out by the Farallon Islands several years ago and never forgot its starkness and beauty. In addition, I have visited the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County numerous times. It is run by a group that rescues injured or abandoned seals and sea lions, etc, which are subsequently rehabilitated and released back into the ocean. So you can see why this book would be of special interest to me. I love nature and there is alot of description of the animal and bird life of the Farallons in this book. If you are not similarly inclined, you may not enjoy the book as I did.
However, it was also the story that grabbed me and never let go. But again, even that part is not for everybody. It is a first person narrative. The main character, Melissa/Miranda, is very introspective. She is not a warm and endearing character. She has few if any friends, has had few relationships in her life. She is difficult for the reader/listener to identify with or like. But I think she knows quite a bit about herself and learns even more over the course of the story. I found the story engrossing, maybe even a bit shocking in parts, and I finished it in record time. Now that it is done, I wish it weren't. I wish it were longer. I didn't want to leave the stark, forbidding, cold but beautiful islands. And I want to know how Miranda fares in the future.
I was torn between rating this audiobook 4 or 5. I have no specific complaints in mind. I just enjoyed this particular trip back to the Farallons! So I am going with all 5's. It is very much still in my mind, in my head.
You see, I rarely listen in my car. I use an mp3 player and earbuds. I had absolutely no problem or complaints about the narrator, Ms. Sands. I think she did a wonderful job of "becoming" the protagonist. I heard her just fine. It might have been different with road noise, but that is not how I listen.
So all in all, this is one of my most favorite and most memorable audiobook experiences.
"Read it as fast as possible."
For me narration is important if I listen to an Audible book. The primary reason I return Audible books is poor narration. Xe Sands's performance is beautiful and evocative; her voice becomes part of the story in a positive way. If you listen to this book or the sample Audible provides you will understand. I am not going to explain the plot, because I think the unfolding of the plot is what makes this book worth the 5 points I gave it on Goodreads.
Six biologists (4M & 2F) on an archipelago 35 miles from San Francisco. Why? Each has a reason that becomes part of the story. Add one young female photograph who writes a grant to buy her way onto the islands for one year. Again her reasons are intertwined with the main plot line. She has a single room while others share rooms in the only habitable building on the archipelago. No real entertainment available, irregular mail delivery, and sporadic deliveries of supplies and food.
Each biologist focuses on one or two species of marine life. The photographer is following along and chronicling their work and the wild life. Life is hard and dangerous for both humans and wild life.
***I must mention there is a rape, so if that is a trigger for you, don't read this book.
Other reviewers (Goodreads and Audible) have said that the writer sends too much time describing the wildlife, but that is the point for the biologists and I thought it was rather interesting. Learned a thing or two.
I can't say that I have ever read a book like this one, perhaps that is why I devoured it: in the car, while folding laundry, getting a pedicure, and at any moment I could. I have never read Abby Geni before, but will look for other books by her. However, I have looked for more books read by Ms. Sands and found several that I will be reading.
"Emotional Human Story on Farallon Island"
This is a good one! Do some research about the Farallon Islands (Google images too) and you will find yourself immersed in this book from the start. It is an emotional story about great human loss and how both humans and the wilds of nature deals with loss. The Farallon Island setting (west of California in the Pacific) makes this a bit eerie; and Miranda, the central character, seems a bit eerie herself; having difficulty expressing emotions and generating any emotional response to the people around her. In the story there is an artist at work making images of the Farallon world, scientists observing (and not affecting) island nature, crime, death, love, and a vast array of other human emotions and experiences set against the backdrop of a somewhat violent natural setting of the ocean and the remote islands. The story is a narrative for the most part and within it, a huge helping of knowledge about the fauna and flora of the Farallon Islands. Readers will learn a great deal while following a very engaging story.
"Vivid story, easy listen"
I enjoyed this story. Written in the first person-the main character Miranda. There's tons of nature, animals, and photography jargon of sorts. The ending was pretty predictable, but not in a negative way. Good story, definitely recommend for possibly a female audience, who doesn't mind a slightly depressing character trying to find her way in life.
"Intriguing and unusual"
Wild nature, isolation, and troubling events on a desolate island occupied by biologists and the main character, a photographer. Seals, sea lions, whales, gulls, and an octopus are as much characters in the book as the humans. I really enjoyed this. The narration is very spare and simple, but it suits this book, I think.
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