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The Lightkeepers: A Novel Paperback – December 13, 2016
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"Readers [...] will find themselves carried along by a sturdy, rather old-fashioned thriller ramped up by some modern, ecologically themed plot twists... The plot is structured like that of a horror film, moving from one alarming event to another, and in between, maintaining a tension around the question of how much worse the situation will get... [a] peculiar, atmospheric novel... It's become customarythe fallback consolation of the book reviewerto say that one is eager to see what a writer will do next. But in fact that is the case here. Ultimately, what engages us in The Lightkeepers, beyond its energetic plot, is the sense of watching its author discover her ability to construct a suspenseful narrative. And we finish this novel curious to find out what sorts of stories Abby Geni will choose to tell."New York Times Book Review
"... chimeric, constantly shifting from mystery to travelogue to natural horror and beyond. For the first one hundred pages, Geni is content to build tension and atmosphere through pure, distilled prose, forgoing any direct attempts to kickstart the plot. And then, violence. In the end, Geni’s transcendent novel is as merciless, strange, and coldly beautiful as the islands she describes... The Lightkeepers is a haunting, brutal, rain- and blood-soaked story of humans at the mercy of nature... With The Lightkeepers, Geni joins the ranks of Barbara Kingsolver and Annie Proulxnovelists for whom nature is a driving narrative force instead of a backdrop. However, Geni’s debut is a few shades darker than Prodigal Summer or Close Range, and instead of Kingsolver and Proulx’s architectural prose, Geni writes in small, perfect sentences stripped of ornamentation, often single clauses. It’s a beautiful effect; pages pass quickly and effortlessly. By the novel’s end, you’ll crave another journey with Geni to some other wild, forgotten corner of the globe."Chicago Review of Books
As Geni’s novel makes explicit from its earliest pages, the islands are dangerous, and they emerge immediately as a character, vivid as the protagonist despite having no voice of their own Geni has taken her time to build up to a closing revelation, and the passages of nature writing, of which there are many, are fascinating; some can evoke both the mystery and the menace of the wilds, demonstrating how people can simultaneously be enchanted by and terrified of unknowable and impenetrable life.”Full Stop
"Geni’s novel The Lightkeepers is the perfect ghost story, and so much more. It is full of a deep, detached sorrowit is frightening, upsetting, disturbing. It creeps up on you. It embodies the sensation of looking over your shoulder in a dark room, and finding nothing there... What The Lightkeepers does so successfully is moor us in a fog of unreality, where it is unclear what is real and what is merely a shape in the mist... Rarely have I ever seen a piece of literature capture loss so accurately, and so beautifully. It paints loss as an absence so powerful that it becomes its own presencelike the light and dark that define a black-and-white photograph... The Lightkeepers is not a novel that can be summed up in a neat concluding line. It is brutal. It is lovely. It is both of these things at once. The darkness borders the light, defining its limits, lending greater depth. In the end, they are inextricable.”The Literary Review
1 of 10 titles to pick up now.”O Magazine, March issue
The strange and desolate Farallon Islands serve as the backdrop for this evocative and enchanting debut novel Geni writes with the clear, calm confidence of a master storyteller. This is a haunting and immersive adventure, set in an unforgettable, wild habitat of its own.” Publishers Weekly Starred Review
The six biologists of the Farallon Islands, like the animals they observe, survive on instinct. Even as they analyze and obsess, they act upon each other with ferocity, with tenderness, with primal need. We are as captivated by, as trapped by, these islands as the characters and no one in this hypnotic story, including the reader, stands on solid ground. The Lightkeepers is a stunner: intense, surefooted, masterful. This is a book to swallow whole.” Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House
Miranda's travelogue, at once emotional and dreamy and rendered in crisp, stunning prose, is so central to the book that readers may at times forget the underpinnings of the locked-room mystery or brush off the question of her reliability as a narrator Geni may be unmatched in her ability to describe nature in ways that feel both photographically accurate and emotionally resonant. Natural wildness, human unpredictability, and the subtle use of literary devices are woven here into a remarkable, vertiginous web.” Kirkus (Starred Review)
"What a strange, wonderful novel this is. At once a soaring paean to the natural world and a story filled with mystery and intrigue as deep and dark as the sea. The Lightkeepers is mesmerizing."Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part meditation on the cruel impartiality of nature, The Lightkeepers holds the reader enthralled in the grasp of an achingly vulnerable, creepingly unreliable narrator. Evocative of Lily King's Euphoria, this riveting debut novel is both an exotic escape from the familiar world and an unflinching exploration of the universality of human nature." Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men
The Lightkeepers is an easy recommendation for readers of all genres. The excitement of the novel lies in its undercurrent of suspicion. Each character is just complicated enough, each excursion just dangerous enough, and each passage just suspicious enough to keep the reader on edge and guessing until the last page.”BookBrowse
Praise for The Last Animal:
I have known for a while that Abby Geni is a brilliant writer, and I’m happy that at last the world will find out. These are sharp, incisive, thoughtful, and utterly original stories, and I recommend this book with all my heart!” Dan Chaon, National Book Award Finalist, Stay Awake and Await Your Reply
Abby Geni is a sharpshooter, a tamer of wild animals, a clear-eyed wonder. The Last Animal is a phenomenally ambitious debut collection and announces Geni’s many talents to the world with the volume of a herd of stampeding elephants. I loved this book, and you will, too.” Emma Straub, The Vacationers
Combining the cool precision of a naturalist with the heart of a born storyteller, Abby Geni catalogues an astounding array of characters whose lives have been undone by the mysterious departures and disappearances of loved ones. Instead of solving these mysteries, she plunges us deeper into them, and the results, like so many of the creatures in this book, are strange, haunting, and beautiful.” Jim Gavin, Middle Men
Abby Geni’s worlds exist at the boundary between desolation and abundance, civilization and nature, love and loneliness. It is as if everything and everyone in these beautiful stories is at least half wild.” Ramona Ausubel, A Guide to Being Born
The Last Animal is a work of rare insight and beauty. Abby Geni's vision is expansive and haunting and wholly new, and she illuminates her characters' loneliness and longing in a way that will break your heart. This book is about love and animals and loss and the whole world; you must read it.” Karen E. Bender, Refund
It's rare to find a single story that's both highly imaginative while also unflinchingly earnest, thrilling while also deeply moving and wise. With The Last Animal we get ten stories that fulfill this ambitious criteria, and an amazing collection that announces Abby Geni as a powerful and original new voice in fiction." Alan Heathcock, Volt
Indies Introduce Debut Authors (Selection, Fall 2013)
When people let you down, the natural world might just be the place to find solace, or so I surmised from this fascinating new collection of short stories. Whether it be Alzheimer’s, depression, affairs, or reasons yet to be determined, the family members of Abby Geni's characters keep disappearing. Even the surrogates, like one beloved camp counselor, can't be depended on. But fortunately there are substitute connections, whether it's the teen student of Dharma at the Gate’ who has her dog, or the young aquarium worker of Captivity’ who is quite aware of the intelligence of the octopus. One museum worker turns to specimens to process his grief at losing his mother, while another man turns to his clients' plant woes after his wife's miscarriage. Even in the stories I wasn't as drawn to, Geni's work is filled with unique images and situations. In my favorite stories, her characters and imagery are heart-stopping.” Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Whether it be an ostrich or an octopus, a manatee in the ocean, a butterfly collection in a museum, or a flight to freedom, the pages of these lively stories are populated by denizens of the natural worldand by those who relate to that world, and those who cannot. Reasons for leaving are clarified, intellectualized rationales are simplified, a mysterious death at a summer camp is mythologized. Intriguing, quirky characters, all at crossroads of one kind or another, are surprised by events or sometimes by unwanted knowledge. An impressive debut by a writer with an interesting sensibility, an arresting voice, and a clear and compassionate understanding of the vagaries of humanity.” Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT
The Last Animal is a collection of entirely original stories that are a true pleasure to read. Geni has a genuine gift for intertwining the lives of people and animals. I believe that this collection will appeal to all types of readers and will be wildly popular.” Sherri Gallentine, Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Human predicaments are complemented by the wild natural world in this excellent debut story collection from Chicago-based author Geni. The characters and events here are unusual and far-reaching, but Geni's careful craftsmanship renders them immediate and real. Each story is threaded with page-turning, deeply felt tension, yet each has also been planted with a seed of magic in varying stages of growth... An entrancing collection, recommended even for those who generally shy away from the short story.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
The short stories in Geni's debut collection beautifully reveal how exposure to nature helps people in emotional pain to recover. In each well-researched piece, Geni vividly depicts the setting, as well as the animals or plants that play important roles Al1 ten stories here are wonderfully written, with precise language and a true compassion for the hardships of the characters. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (Starred)
Geni’s first book puts us on notice. Here is a fiction writer who perceives the many forms of consciousness at work on the planet. In shrewd, sure stories, Geni registers the life force of trees, deciphers the confusions of human emotions, and considers the mystery of our interactions with other species Endangerment, disappearance, isolation, love adrift, the attempt to hold on to and define lifeGeni illuminates each condition and effort with keen realism and empathetic imagination to wondrously disquieting effect.” Booklist
Heartwarming and touching stories written with an understanding of the world around us in a delightful delicate way. Guaranteed to reach even the coldest heart so bring your tissues as you enjoy these stories. Well balanced and skillfully delivered with a bit of flair. This book comes highly recommended.” BooksBooksBooks
Abby Geni’s debut short story collection, The Last Animal (Counterpoint Press), seeks, in her own words, to explore one of the great illusions of the human experience that we are somehow outside of naturebeyond the food chainthat we are not animals ourselves.’ It’s an enduring premise that still feels ripe with possibilitya post-Romantic examination of man vs. nature, prehistory vs. technology, intellect vs. instinct. It’s eons subtler than Planet of the Apes, far less satirical than Animal Farm, less epic than Moby Dick, and absent of anthropomorphism. Rather, it’s a plainspoken, earnest collection that finds its home somewhere between Megan Mayhew Bergman’s quietly moving Birds of a Lesser Paradise and Lydia Millet’s darkly absorbing How the Dead Dream.” KGB Bar & Lit Journal
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Miranda has lived through the loss of her mother as a child and has spent her adult life traveling from one remote difficult photo assignment to another, leaving letters to her dead mother along the way, her way of dealing with the void in her life. She seems unaware of why she is pulled to a place called the Islands of the Dead, to how detached she is from her own life. She joins the bio-scientists on the island who live there for their own reasons, who use their specific specialty as both their reason for being and as a means to stay separate from a normal socially involved life. As Miranda learns about the islands we feel the tension between barren beauty and perilous existence, between an avaricious, violent history and the degree of devotion the biologists exercise in hopes of learning more about the various creatures, between a destination for hoards of animals (changing each season) and their at-risk lives. In this hauntingly beautiful setting, at once also extraordinarily dangerous by tides, cliffs, caves, slippery rocks and remoteness, the islands themselves are another character, both terrifying yet oddly compelling. Miranda arrives, changing the dynamic on the islands and forcing her into a changing perspective on her life. Early on there is a death -- did they slip or was it murder?
This book is so beautifully written. It will suck you in and all you will want to do is cuddle up in a blanket and forget the rest of the world. I was so impressed when I saw that this was Geni's first novel. Geni does an amazing job of showing the power of nature. She also does a good job of showing that this power can be promising, it can be violent, it can be beautiful, or it can be destructive. Nature is at the very core of our beings even if we aren't aware of it.
While I don't feel like this book will be for everybody, I do recommend it to those who search for honesty and truth, scientists, nature lovers, etc. Take your time and get to know the characters and the Islands and open your mind to Geni's telling of the power of nature
Many of the reviews praised this "debut" novel, but this enchanting book surpasses tales by even the most accomplished authors. The Lightkeepers will stay with me for a long, long time.
The plot has some big holes, however: one is obvious all along, and the others only appear after the surprise ending.
I read an interview with the author recently in which she compares this book to an Agatha Christie mystery. I understand the parallels, but The Lightkeepers is far superior to any Christie mystery I ever read.
I'd give 4.5 stars if it were an option.
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It’s an extraordinary piece of work.Read more