Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review: The Lightkeeper

The Lightkeeper
Susan Wiggs
Historical Romance
1876/Washington Territory
MIRA/October 1, 1997
Re-issued/MIRA/March 1, 2002

When his pregnant wife dies in a shipwreck, Jesse Morgan gives up his wealth and place in Seattle society. He relegates himself to a tiny community where he dedicates his life to protecting others from the ocean. As keeper of a remote lighthouse along a dangerous coast in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse rejects all social contact so that he can brood about his loss. When the sea tosses up a beautiful pregnant woman, the lone survivor of another shipwreck, Jesse finds he has a second chance at life and love.

Mary Dare is an outspoken Irish woman who takes poverty, single motherhood, and death in stride. She brings vitality, passion, and joy to Jesse's life and forces him to face his guilt and unhappiness. Mary's honesty and compassion transform Jesse, and together they find beauty in a simple life.

Growing up in the Midwest, I always wanted to live on the coast. The idea of living in a lighthouse was truly amazing to someone whose only experience with a large body of water was Lake Michigan. Yes, there are (or were) lighthouses on the Great Lakes but I when I envisioned living in a lighthouse, it was always on the ocean. Through Jesse and Mary's story, I was able to live out my dream. Many years ago, when The Lightkeeper was first published I was lucky enough to read it and get lost in the beautiful world Susan Wiggs created. It was enjoyable to renew the love of the sea and of Wiggs' writing.

Jesse Morgan chooses to live his life as hermit and he's found a good place to do it. At the lighthouse, Jesse is able to more or less keep to himself and avoid interacting with most of the locals. He has lived this way for twelve years and has no desire to change. Then, the sea grants him the precious gift of Mary and her unborn child. He does not want this gift and tries to make Mary leave the lighthouse. There is such sadness and loneliness in Jesse. You can feel it in his actions, in what he says and what he leaves unsaid. Wiggs makes you want Jesse to find happiness. He has stayed in the dark for too long. Mary is the light to show him the way out.

Mary Dare is a woman who has survived so much and yet she still has this bright outlook on life. It wasn't difficult to share in Mary's enthusiasm for life. She is quite stubborn, which fits with her character. A woman without Mary's sheer stubbornness would not have made it as far and through as much as she has. Mary still has her insecurities and fears and she has every right to fear what she is running from.

Wiggs evokes strong feelings of love, loss and hope and within the pages there is also humor. Mary teases Jesse, helping to bring him back to the world of the living. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, sometimes at Mary's teasing but often at Jesse's self-deprecating comments. It lightened the more serious moments.

Those serious moments do conclude into a dramatic finale. It was easy to get caught up in the moments with just the right amount of tension and danger. A wonderful romance about surviving and learning to live life to the fullest.

Rating: A