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The Effects of Lightby Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Synopses & Reviews
Throughout their childhood, Myla and Pru Wolfe pose for a haunting series of photographs. Young, beautiful, and motherless, the sisters bond fiercely in their shared sense of loss, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and status as favorite subjects for family friend and photographer Ruth Handel. The photographs fire each girl's psyche with a sense of artistic accomplishment.
Until their world irrevocably shifts...
Thirteen years later, the older sister receives a mysterious communication that calls her back to her past. Awkwardly fleeing the one man who has managed to pierce her defenses, she flies home to Oregon, where a series of packages is sent to her in measured installments. They are time bombs of revelation, artifacts that force her to relive — and come to terms with — the event that changed her family forever.
"Beverly-Whittemore investigates the relationship between art and life in an engaging but uneven debut that reveals both her promise and her youth (she was born in 1976). As children, Myla Wolfe and her now deceased sister, Pru, posed for a series of provocative photographs. Because of an unnamed (but aggressively insinuated) tragedy, Myla has spent her adult life as a history professor named Kate Scott (though an unconvincing one: 'So much passion over something so potentially boring: medieval research!...She felt lost in ideas'). A mysterious letter and a colleague's lecture draw her back to her hometown, where she tries to put together the puzzle of her dead father's academic work, reconnect with those she left behind, rediscover herself as Myla and forge a new love with the aforementioned colleague. Her quest is juxtaposed with the parallel narrative of the tragedy's buildup, as told by her dead sister. Beverly-Whittemore gets points for her ambitious plot, but a nave intellectual enthusiasm overwhelms the novel, and in trying to incorporate too many heavy themes, she obscures the novel's focus: is this a mystery? an allegory? a graduate student essay? At one point, Myla recalls how her father congratulated her for refusing to learn to read yet, thus demonstrating that 'she wasn't ready...to lose the big picture.' Beverly-Whittemore doesn't seem ready to lose it, either — but next time, perhaps she'll exert more control over her far-reaching visions. Agent, Anne Hawkins. 4-city author tour. (Feb. 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Passionate writing, skillful plotting, and intriguing characters make this a necessary purchase." Booklist
"A thought-provoking debut....Entertaining but schematic, with characters' motivations often so unexpected as to be nearly implausible." Kirkus Reviews
"A smoothly written narrative makes this an excellent choice for most public libraries, and it should be popular where novels dealing with family crisis and personal growth have a following." Library Journal
"Complex and beautifully-written...the first offering of what promises to be an exceptional career." Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife
"I loved this book...a spellbinding novel of ideas, which explores...the haunting power of art to make, or unmake, a life." Dawn Clifton Tripp, author of Moon Tide
"[This] story of two sisters captured in time will stay with you long after the final, radiant page." Lorna J. Cook, author of Departures
Blending themes of lost innocence, sexual awakening, and triumph over loss, The Effects Of Light follows in the tradition of such bestselling first novels as Girl with a Pearl Earring and the #1 New York Times bestseller The Lovely Bones.
Blending themes of lost innocence, sexual awakening, and triumph over loss, this evocative debut novel features two sisters whose lives are forever altered by a series of photos.
About the Author
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1976. The daughter of a writer and an anthropologist, she moved to Senegal in West Africa at the age of three, where her family conducted ethnographic research for nearly three years. By the age of nine she was living in Portland, Oregon, completing her secondary education at the Catlin Gabel School. Ms. Beverly-Whittemore subsequently attended Vassar College, where she received the Fiction Prize, and from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with general and departmental honors. After graduating she worked for nearly three years as the Assistant to the Managing Director at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, where she helped to curate the main reading series and writing program. The Effects of Light is her first novel. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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