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The Lightkeeper's Daughters

by Jean E. Pendziwol

GENRE: Historical Fiction

Due to failing eyesight, Elizabeth is unable to read the recently found diaries of her deceased father, a lighthouse keeper on Lake Superior. She is aided by teen delinquent, Morgan, as they investigate her family’s secrets, and they both learn of unexpected ties between the two women.

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Author Biography

Jean E. Pendziwol is an award winning Canadian author. Born and raised in northwestern Ontario, she draws on the culture, history and geography of the region for inspiration for her stories.  

An instant national bestseller, Jean's debut adult novel The Lightkeeper's Daughters is a story about family, identity, and art involving a decades-old mystery. Vividly drawn, Lake Superior is almost a character in itself, changeable yet constant, its shores providing both safety and isolation. Published by HarperCollins in North America, the book is also available in multiple other languages around the world.

​Jean's latest picture book, When I Listen to Silence, published by Groundwood Books and illustrated by Carmen Mok, explores creativity and the imagination. Jean's other children's books include the Governor General's Literary Awards shortlisted Once Upon a Northern Night (Groundwood Books, Illus. Isabelle Arsenault) and the bestselling No Dragons For Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) (Kids Can Press, Illus. Martine Gourbault).  A new picture book Skating Wild on and Inland Sea, illustrated by Todd Stewart, will be released by Groundwood Books in 2023. - Author's website

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Morgan Fletcher has been sentenced to community service at a local retirement home for tagging its fence. There she meets Elizabeth Livingstone, a resident whose advancing blindness has taken away her beloved books and treasured paintings. When Elizabeth unexpectedly receives her father's long-lost journals of his time as a lighthouse keeper on Porphyry Island, she asks Morgan to read them to her. Morgan, who has lived her life in a series of foster homes dreaming of learning about her past, finds the journals a surprising link to her own early life. As Morgan and Elizabeth delve deeper into the pages, they discover a shared connection to the lighthouse and its history. Pendziwol's (Me and You and the Red Canoe, 2017) first adult novel is a deeply satisfying look at the meaning of family. With strong characters and rich in historical details, The Lightkeeper's Daughters looks carefully at love and identity and the things we do to keep them both safe.  --Carol Gladstein (Reviewed on 07/12/2017)

Kirkus Reviews

A decades-old mystery is revisited as an elderly woman shares the story of her childhood with a troubled teen. Teenage foster child Morgan Fletcher has been sentenced to completing a term of community service at the senior center she tagged with graffiti art. On her first day scraping off spray paint, Morgan meets Elizabeth Livingstone, an elderly woman who's still sharp as a tack but is almost completely blind. A boat belonging to Elizabeth's older brother, Charlie, has just been found, empty and foundering on Lake Superior. The boat was discovered near Porphyry Island, a small island in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario, where she and her siblings were raised. Their father was the lighthouse keeper on Porphyry Island for many years during the early 20th century. Although Charlie is missing, the authorities have recovered journals that belonged to their dead father, Andrew, and those books have just arrived for Elizabeth. Unable to read her father's words on her own, Elizabeth looks to the delinquent teenager repairing the fence outside her window. Morgan is quickly drawn in by Elizabeth and her history, spending many hours reading to the old lady instead of hanging around with her deadbeat boyfriend. As Morgan helps Elizabeth solve the puzzles of her past, the two women, young and old, form an unlikely bond that helps Morgan unearth many mysteries about her own life. With each tidbit that Elizabeth discovers from her father's writings, Morgan becomes more desperate for answers about her own past. In her first foray into adult fiction, Pendziwol (Once upon a Northern Night, 2013, etc.) has created an intricately satisfying story about love and deception that manages to be both melancholy and exhilarating. A haunting tale of nostalgia and lost chances that is full of last-minute surprises.  (Reviewed 04/18/2017)

Publisher's Weekly

YA author Pendziwol (Once Upon a Northern Light) pins her first story for adults to the "fortunes of chance" that bring mixed blessings to the last family manning a lighthouse on the Ontario side of Lake Superior. The narrative nimbly tacks between the past and present of Elizabeth Livingstone, a near-blind expat raised on Porphyry Island in the 1920s and '30s. Since recovering her father's old day logs, returned by a constable investigating a shipwreck, she's eager to get to the bottom of the tragedy that forced her and her twin sister to leave the island 60 years before. Her failing eyesight prevents her from diving in until "fortune" pairs her with Morgan Fletcher, a foster teen sent to do community service at her retirement home. Game on. Cagey and drawn to bad company, Morgan turns out to be on an ancestral quest of her own and proves the perfect Watson. This is a perfect hammock read for those who love the Brontë sisters and Jodi Picoult in equal measure.  (Reviewed 05/29/2017)

Library Journal

Children's author Pendziwol's adult debut is about two women: elderly Elizabeth, who has lost her eyesight and yearns to know more about her family's past, and teenage orphan Morgan, who is performing community service at Elizabeth's assisted-living facility and gets roped into helping Elizabeth. When Elizabeth's late father's journals are discovered after an accident, Morgan reads them aloud to her. The 70-year-old tales of his time as the local lighthouse keeper on an island on Lake Superior unravel the clouded mysteries in the family. Both women will learn that their histories have always been entwined in ways neither could have realized. This atmospheric novel tells an intricate story about familial love and deception. While the story at the novel's core may lean toward the melodramatic, readers will be drawn in by the intergenerational relationship between Elizabeth and Morgan as they discover their pasts in each other. VERDICT Fans of Heather Young and Jojo Moyes might want to look into Jean Pendziwol this summer. (Reviewed 06/15/2017)


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