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Comment: Ex-library softcover book. All the usual marks/stamps. Heavy wear to cover and edges of pages. Ex-Library Hardcover , heavy wear to book edges and cover , all the usual library marks and stickers
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Fort Starlight Paperback – September 10, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In her first novel, Pushcart nominee Zuluaga transports her readers to Fort Starlight, a Florida community founded on little more than hopes and promises. Ida Overdorff invested $1,000 in a plot of land near the budding city on a whim. Chronically poor, she’s delighted when local land developers contact her with an offer to more than double her investment. She spends the last of her savings getting to Florida to make good on the deal, but when she’s handed a rubber check and left to her own devices, she finds herself stranded with nothing to her name but a plot of land she’s never seen. She soon finds she’s not the only one in Fort Starlight waiting for fate to deal her a new hand. When a tropical storm abruptly brings Ida and her neighbors together, the many ways in which they can help each other are revealed. Zuluaga’s prose is delicate and artful, creating inviting depths from which each reader can draw his or her own meaning. --Amber Peckham


Sun-beaten stretches of wetlands, empty real estate dreams and a duplicitous developer bring together a mismatched cast of lost souls in Zuluaga's entertaining debut.  "Fort Starlight" is a moving story of half-recovered dreams and reconfigurations of pseudo-families, but Zuluaga's prose is strongest when she writes about the intersections of nature and man in this strange pocket of Florida. 
-New York Times Book Review, Dec. 2013

“A moving story of half-recovered dreams and reconfigurations of pseudo-families.”
—S. Kirk Walsh, The New York Times Book Review

“Zuluaga’s prose is delicate and artful, creating inviting depths from which each reader can draw his or her own meaning.”
—Amber Peckham, Booklist

"Zuluaga’s absorbing, expertly written debut explores the intersection of dreams and reality in the bizarre wilderness of Florida’s wetlands...Zuluaga’s portrayal of what happens to dreams deferred is beautifully executed." —Publishers Weekly

"The great joy of reading this novel was to be steeped in place, its blackbirds and alligators, its grasslands and rivers, the storms which blew in with regularity, but also for its indelible cast of characters, misfits all, who I grew to love as they forged on with pioneer hope, sowed the grace of second chances, and displayed the generous care of family beyond blood. Claudia Zuluaga has written a powerful novel, rare in its elegance, and Fort Starlight introduces a wonderful new voice into the world of literature."
—Alan Heathcock, author of Volt

“Claudia Zuluaga knows the real Florida, that wild, un-Disneyfied place where people from all over have come to chase their dreams into tenuous subdivisions on lush and mucky land. In her stunning first novel, Zuluaga sets in motion a tense, multi-layered drama which plays out in the barely drained swamps, revealing a fragile and beautiful ecosystem of vivid, eccentric, and absolutely believable characters. Fort Starlight is a stunning explosion of a novel. I savored every word of it.”
—Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

“Claudia Zuluaga has created a heady, humid world that feels part tropical fairy tale and part economic cautionary tale. In her gifted hands, Florida's natural world feels as riveting as the hopeful but hard-pressed characters who populate its tenuous landscape. Fort Starlight is both beautiful and strange, a mesmerizing and singular novel.”
—Michelle Wildgen, author of Bread and Butter and You're Not You

“Claudia Zuluaga has given us a heart-felt page turner out of a parched housing development in South Florida. Reminiscent of Alice Hoffman’s Turtle Moon, Zuluaga manages to hold onto the drama and suspense of her story and, at the same time, shared with us her big, generous heart. We care for her characters and their crazy midsummer’s night dream the way she cares for them. This makes it all the more difficult to believe that this is the work of a debut novelist and not that of an old hand. In other words she knows how to spin a yarn and it was a pleasure to be caught up for a time in her web.”
—Mary Morris, author of Revenge

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Engine Books (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1938126130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1938126130
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Claudia Zuluaga was born in White Plains, NY, but moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida halfway through high school. She teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) in New York City. Rare for a writer, she is allergic to cats.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Myfanwy Collins on August 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has got so much of what I love in a book. I could have read it in one sitting if I'd been allowed but instead I had to read it in two days.

It is beautiful, heartfelt, harrowing, and funny. The case of characters do not let you down and the ending will leave you weeping (but in a good way).

It is very much a book of place but in a way that place brings certain types of people together, and I love that. I love it.

I loved Ida. I loved the boys. I loved them all. All of their stories came alive in me. All spoke to me.

I'm going to be buying this book for lots of people in the coming months. Pressing it into their hands. Telling them to read it right this second. I hope you will, too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Set in a swampy incomplete housing development in Florida, Fort Starlight explores the alienation and disconnection stemming from childhood traumas of neglect and abandonment. Fighting to make her way through this swamp is Ida, a young woman who finds herself stranded, swept along by circumstances beyond her control. By coping with this she learns how to connect with others, make a safe place for herself, let go of the past and find pathways to success that are more realistic and achievable.

In another writer's hands this would be a carnival of lighthearted industrial sabotage or a pit of insurmountable despair. But Zuluaga infuses the bleak landscape with beauty, love, and hope. There is danger in the swamp; there is corruption, sadness, grief. But the swamp is also a habitat - the animals who live in it are doomed without it. The storms that wreck havoc also provide opportunity.

The people of Fort Starlight cope with their own personal swamps in their own ways, forming families of support and love that might not fit traditional definitions of family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cole on August 24, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Claudia Zuluaga has written the definitive Florida novel.

Twenty-something heroine Ida, intrepid, naïve, and compelling, bets her dreams on a real estate deal that’s too good to be true. She finds herself in an emotional and financial quagmire where she meets a cast of quintessentially scorched Sunshine State characters. There’s the genius, tree-house-dwelling scion of a cold-hearted millionaire; the gay couple playing grown-up in a perfectly furnished mock house; the girl who is old before her time; the old lady who has never been young; one friendly Jesus freak; an over-worked store manager; and, perhaps most poignantly, the corn-children brothers of bumpkin parents who offed themselves with poison beer. (Why is it, when men hit on you in Florida, they always tell you about the swimming pool they have waiting back at their home?)

Zuluaga’s remarkable achievement is to have breathed authentic and sympathetic life into this sweat-saturated freak show; the secret may be in her exquisite, lyrical prose. Once the adolescent stock boy fired his price gun, and the corpses started to make their presence known, I could not turn away.

As for Ida, I ached for her to achieve financial resurrection, to overcome the wounds left by her neglectful mother and dirt-poor childhood, to find some peace with the unexplained disappearance of her beloved older brother. She’s got the will and intelligence, but she’s groping for the way forward. Fort Starlight forms the seminal chapter in Ida’s adulthood, but loss and death are present even in Arcadia’s valley, and nothing, not poverty, nor Florida, nor neglect, nor motherhood, can change the essential character of a human being. We are left to marvel at the human spirit in the face of indifferent fate as we watch Ida earn her every ounce of maturity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By fussy consumer on January 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an impressive first novel. I read it on the recommendation of a writer friend whom I’d asked for a list of books to keep me well distracted during a post-op period. And indeed, it totally absorbed me following minor but incapacitating surgery. Although I was somewhat confused at first by the number of seemingly unrelated characters Zuluaga introduced early on (possibly befuddled by painkillers), soon enough their relationships became clear and the wild but amazing assortment of characters, fringe and unusual, became a kind of lifeline in my secluded existence. I was easily pulled in by Ida’s struggle to survive the harsh elements of her Fort Starlight environment. The author’s familiarity with the Florida landscape, its beauties and life-threatening dangers, and particularly her knowledge about baking, made the novel come to life. Several of the characters grow and change during the course of the story, so the ending is very satisfying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christine on August 4, 2015
Format: Paperback
If you read Fort Starlight (and you should!) you'll find yourself pulled into a surreal but authentic place, full of unrealized potential and inevitable decay. Fort Starlight is populated with a small group of characters who draw you in, so much so that you - like them - won't quite know how to leave it. You'll want to stay along with Ida and the other residents of this half-finished development, even as you root for them to make it out of this place that isn't quite all there. I read this book in less than 48 hours and I wanted more. Zuluaga's voice is descriptive but unobstrusive, and her characters ring true. They're not flashy, but you feel as if you could know each of them from the first few words. You'll feel the sweat and humidity that blend with equal parts dread and quiet optimism as you flip through the pages. I can't wait to get lost in her next story. Impressive debut!
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