Friday, August 15, 2014

Lighthouse Island: A Novel

Title:  Lighthouse Island:  A Novel
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Publication Information:  HarperCollins. 2013. 392 pages.
ISBN:  0062232517 / 978-0062232519

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Nadia plunged into books because there was no danger of fictional characters disappearing, and eve better, they were not subject to arrest."

Nadia is a young woman growing up in a dystopian world. We first meet Nadia at the age of four when she is orphaned or abandoned on the streets. She grows up through the child welfare system. She becomes fixated on the idea of a vacation spot called Lighthouse Island. She sets off on a quest to find Lighthouse Island where life sure might be better and maybe she'll find her parents.

The dystopian society Nadia is in is the result of a population explosion and characterized by an extreme lack of even basic necessities like water. Lighthouse Island becomes a beacon of hope or the promise of utopia, a place where life still blossoms.

I have read and enjoyed several dystopian novels (The Here and NowCloud Atlas, The Hunger Games), but I had a very difficult time getting through this book, primarily due to the writing style.

The initial part of the books jumps from Nadia abandoned at age four, Nadia in an orphanage, Nadia going blind, Nadia regaining her eyesight, Nadia losing other people she cares about, Nadia in a couple of different foster homes, and more. These heartbreaking events should create a sympathy for Nadia's plight. Yet, they don't. The detached tone of the book and the quick jumping from point to point create a narrative and character that elicit no such reaction. Beyond that point, I really did not care what happened to Nadia.

The book also seems to go off in a stream of consciousness ramble with the story getting lost in the writing. A couple of examples.

"It signified the fascination with an avaricious past and a desire for the personal communication and entertainment devices that had turned humanity into consuming somnambulant narcoleptic zombies."


"James had been forced to sit in a cramped waiting room with a loud television blasting in his face along with other patients in their carefully repaired clothes and various forms limblessness, a sign of his descent from privilege to proletarian misery, of which he should not be contemptuous, except for him the consequences of official poverty would be fatal." 

The individual sentences have a lyrical quality to them, but putting many of them all together results in a whole lot of words with not much story.

The mechanical choice of not putting quotation marks around dialogue makes the book even more difficult to follow. I know other books have used this technique, but in this one, it was unsuccessful for me.

The premise of the entire book is the quest to reach Lighthouse Island, and without revealing the end, I will just say that it was rather abrupt. Yet, based on the rest of the book, I really don't want to know more.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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