Friday, August 8, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

Title: Lighthouse Island
Author: Paulette Jiles
Genre: Adult Dystopian/Literary Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: Oct 8/2013
Adquired: Print copy provided by Publisher
Goodreads: ADD

The bestselling author of the highly praised novels The Color of Lightning, Stormy Weather, and Enemy Women pushes into new territory with this captivating and atmospheric story set in the far future-a literary dystopian tale resonant with love and hope.

In the coming centuries the world's population has exploded and covered the earth with cities, animals are nearly all gone and drought has taken over so that cloudy water is issued by the quart. There are no maps, no borders, no numbered years. On this urban planet the only relief from overcrowding and the harsh rule of the big Agencies is the television in every living space, with its dreams of vanished waterfalls and the promise of virtual vacations in green spaces, won by the lucky few.

It is an unwelcoming world for an orphan like Nadia Stepan. Abandoned by her parents on a crowded street when she was four, the little girl is shuttled from orphanage to orphanage, foster-family to foster-family. Nadia grows up dreaming of the vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest. She becomes obsessed with it and is determined to somehow find her way there. In the meantime this bright and witty orphan falls into the refuge of old and neglected books; the lost world of the imagination. And beyond the confusion and overcrowding and the relentless television noise, comes a radio voice from an abandoned satellite that patiently reads, over and over, the great classical books of the world-Big Radio, a voice in the night that lifts Nadia out of the dull and perpetual Present.

An opportunity for escape appears and Nadia takes it, abandoning everything to strike out for Lighthouse Island in a dangerous and sometimes comic adventure. She meets every contingency with bottomless inventiveness meets the man who changes the course of her life: James Orotov, mapmaker and demolition expert. Together they evade arrest and head north toward a place of wild beauty that lies beyond the megapolis-Lighthouse Island and its all-seeing eye.


Adult Dystopia. What a hell of a thing to anticipate reading about. All I've known of the genre comes from cookie-cutter teen narratives that more times than not, border on the highly ridiculous. Lighthouse Island was not of the 'highly ridiculous' variety, but it was definitely a whole set of other adjectives that I'd rather not use when describing a book: confusing, disjointed, jumbled, and overly-descriptive. I found a simple solace in Jiles' beautiful prose, but her stream-of-conscious narrative was one I could have done without.

I'll admit, without shame, that I find it hard to appreciate and understand true literary fiction. I will most likely never venture into the realms of Faulkner or Orwell, they just aren't my thing. I prefer linear plot lines, thoroughly fleshed out characters, detailed world-building, a mind clear of ambiguity. Lighthouse Island was like reading a novel through layers of fog. I just couldn't wipe away enough of the haze to truly grasp what was happening below and in between the author's words. 150 years into the future, an over-populated earth, lives and resources regulated, a young girl navigating a cruel new world on her own, dreams abound and attempting to be made into reality: I understood all of that. There was detail enough that I could sympathize with the citizens of this (very possible) new state of existence. But there was that, and only that. Paulette Jiles wove a tale that read too much like one very long, very scattered, poem.

I had to put this book down, numerous times. At the lowest times I felt like I just wasn't intellectual enough to understand the tones, but then the frustration would set in, and I would be running a near-constant dialogue of "UGH, why can't it just stick to one moment time for at LEAST a paragraph!?" and the obvious "WHY ARE THERE NO QUOTATION MARKS!?" By the end, frustration won out, and I quickly scolded myself for even questioning my intelligence: this book just wasn't for me. The beginning was brutal to slog through. The middle, when Nadia finally hit her stride, and found James, were definitely the most engaging. The conclusion felt rushed, and the introduction of key characters in this section only added to my puzzlement. Lighthouse Island was a near brilliant idea for a novel, near absolutely brilliant, which is why the actual execution of it left me so disappointed. This narrative should have been solid gold.

In all, a great choice for readers who have studied lit fiction, and for those who enjoy books that challenge more than they engage. Lighthouse Island is a novel to be deconstructed, and put back together again. To be enjoyed as one would analyze a piece of art. Sadly, those things just aren't what I enjoy in my reading.

Paulette Jiles is a poet and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the bestselling novels Enemy Women and Stormy Weather. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to William Morrow for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour


  1. Thank you for your honest review for the tour.

  2. I'm on this tour as well. My review will be going live tomorrow! Very interesting to read your take on the book!
    Beth at

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