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.
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.
32 of 36 people found this review helpful
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.
43 of 49 people found this review helpful
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.
98 of 114 people found this review helpful
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.
46 of 55 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I didn't really like the main character and found her grief overly extravagant, isolated and self indulgent.
However, you put a person like that on a hostile island full of dive bombing birds, treacherous terrain, elephant seal warlords, orphaned pups, mice, whales & sharks, and the biologists who study them and she undergoes a seismic shift.
I will look for more books from this author!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
"The Lightkeepers," by Abby Geni is an amazing novel. It absolutely defies being put into any one category. I'll just say that while it has an intriguing sort of mystery element to it, that is not why (or only reason) I would recommend listening to it (or reading it). This creative and brilliant author has provided great expanse of possibilities for what can be focused upon, at different moments in this unusual and excellent story.
This is a book that makes me wish I belonged to a book group--people with whom to enter into long discussions about the myriad levels of story line, motifs, symbolism, and the research the author must have done to have created such a thorough, beautiful, fascinating description of of the native sea, air and land wildlife around the Farallon Islands, first known to Native Americans, still almost uninhabited, where this all takes place.
This is the story of Miranda, a young nature photographer, who joins six biologists on the Farallon Islands, off the coast of California, and her journey of personal discovery as she and the others pit themselves against the elements of nature--even while joining with them to study the life that exists in this exotic place. This book is a story of loss and longing, of violence and caring, of nature--in its personal and impersonal forms--of discovery, fear, kindness, and letting go. It is a very challenging work to describe in the short space we have here, except to say that as a beautiful work of fiction, with outstanding writing, I hope it will be read/listened to by many people. The writing itself is poetic. I know I will feel this haunting my memory for quite some time to come.
A word about the narrator. I suspect many will love her reading. As did I in many places. But she has an odd way of letting her voice trail off softly at the end of some sentences. I think this is deliberate, in an attempt to let the listener feel the emotion of the story. I found it frustrating, because it leads to the missing of some of the beautiful words the author used.
I will just say that this is a book well worth listening to, for anyone who loves beautiful prose (her passages about the whales reminded me of the memorable chapters in Moby Dick, where Melville spoke about the interaction of the whales in their pods), a story that can seamlessly interweave more than one story line, and provide fascinating information about the wildlife and difficult existence on islands I didn't even know existed off San Francisco.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
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.
22 of 29 people found this review helpful
i didn't expect to like this book as much as i did. when i started, i thought it was actually going to bore me, but boy was i wrong. the language is sparse yet beautiful...great imagery...interesting characters and a well kept secret that keeps the book afloat.
i was moved and deeply affected by the choice of the author to use letters to the narrator's deceased mother as a way of moving the story along-- kind of heartbreaking, but really well done.
this is a sad solemn story, but somehow it feels like it needed to be told.
22 of 29 people found this review helpful