Living in California and flying out of LAX means that I often soar over the ocean as planes take off. They shoot out over the water and double back before starting across the country. The sun creates the look of sequins on a shimmering dress below—one of my favorite sights.
I’ve flown over other bodies of water—most of which I didn’t know the name of. However, when I flew to Grand Rapids to meet the publisher of Deepest Roots of the Heart, we flew right over Lake Michigan. It was one of the most beautiful and amazing things I’ve ever seen from the air. When you’re up there over the middle of that lake, you can’t see the other side. You feel like you’re over the ocean.
Standing on the shore of the lake at Grand Haven, I recall feeling almost a bit of homesickness knowing that I couldn’t see the other side like I was accustomed to at smaller lakes. Just like staring into the sunset over the ocean. Just like home.
I’ve wanted to go back ever since—to see it again. Actually, I’d love to see all of the Great Lakes—starting with the one I first met.
So, when I had a chance to review a set of novellas about Great Lakes lighthouses, how I could I not jump at it. After all, I write in a prayer house we call the “Lighthouse?” (Yet another way our little desert town is an oxymoron, no?) I requested a review copy almost before the offer could be extended.
Yesterday, I read the collection of seven novellas (very, very short novellas, mind you).
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you.
7 Reviews of Loss, Love, & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes
As I said, these Great Lakes novellas are short. They’re barely longer than a short story, actually. I read all seven in a span of about five hours. As a whole, the stories were well written, and I only have a few quibbles with individual titles within the collection.
My biggest objection, actually, is that there were name crossovers between a few of the stories which, after reading so many in a row, became confusing. I actually think it would have been worse if I’d read one here or there. Additionally, several of the storylines had strong similarities and/or contrived plots. Add to that some info-dumping and you’d think I didn’t like the collection or the stories, but that’s not actually true.
Let’s talk about each of the stories, though.
Anna’s Tower by Pegg Thomas
It’s a toss-up between this book and the next as to which is my favorite. This story was unique, extremely well written, and full of the kinds of details you need to know without over-describing things. Characters were well-developed, a difficult thing to do in approximately twenty-thousand words. Pegg Thomas knows how to limit herself to create a well-crafted story that itself doesn’t feel limited at all. The relationship progression felt natural, and as I already stated, it might be my favorite, and I’m eager to read more by Ms. Thomas.
Beneath a Michigan Moon by Candice Sue Patterson
In a “Blue Castle moves to America and meets a lumberjack” kind of twist, this novella had all the charm of one of my favorite L.M. Montgomery novels without feeling like a cheap imitation. Ms. Patterson writes authentic, stubborn, and lovably flawed characters in a story that shows a realistic, gentle romance that satisfied—even in such a short story. As with the first in the collection, I didn’t feel as if the story was rushed or incomplete. Would I like more of either or both of them? Absolutely. But I walked away satisfied and eager to read more by this author.
Safe Haven by Rebecca Jepson
If the first two were my favorites, this was a close second/third. Once more, we had a unique story and delightful characters. One element of the story bothered me a bit—it all seemed a bit contrived—but I think that it was either necessary to make the main story work because of the shortness of the novella, or it only needed a full-length novel to make it work. I’m not sure which. Still, it was a minor annoyance of an issue rather than a big problem. I’ll definitely be reading more by Ms. Jepson. I suspect I’ll find a few new favorites from her as well.
Love’s Beacon by Carrie Fancett Pagels
After three successful novellas, I still don’t know if my less enthusiastic response to this one was because I read them all at once, if it just wasn’t my cup of tea, or if it was a combination of the two. This isn’t a bad book. I’m not sorry I read it. I liked different parts—in particular, I loved the characters of Paul and Sofia.
However, there were strong similarities in some elements of this story and the last, and then again in the next. Because of that, some details are blurring together. I did find the actual romance very sweet, and I cheered for Val in that respect. In retrospect, I think my biggest objection is that the author tried to fit a lot of elements into one very short story.
The Last Memory by Kathleen Rouser
This novella had many similar elements to others, and its position as one of the middle books made it difficult not to be frustrated by it. As with the other story involving a father and daughter, they were my favorite characters in the story. I also enjoyed the influence of Aunt Ada. There were several poignant moments where the woman gave beautiful advice. I think I want to read a full-length novel by Ms. Rouser. Something about this one hints that I may really enjoy her writing in a different context.
Note: I did not dislike it, but the similarities with a couple of the other books made it hard to appreciate it as much as I might otherwise have.
The Disappearing Ship by Lena Nelson Dooley
Of all the novellas, this is the one I wanted a full-length novel of the most. I really think writing this as a novella did a disservice to what would otherwise be an excellent novel. The more suspenseful elements, the hint of mystery, and the character/relationship development that could have happened would have made this book amazing. As it is, I was disappointed. We were informed of a lot of the action rather than actually seeing it play out, and that really weakened the experience for me. So, once again, the novella made me eager to see how I’d like a full-length novel by its author.
The Wrong Survivor by Marilyn Turk
I found myself floundering as I read this one—mostly, I think, because the last novella’s main character’s name was Drake Logan, and this character is Nathan Drake. Add to that a Nathan a couple of novellas up, and I struggled with it. I kept thinking that this or that behavior was out of character until I realized I was expecting him to behave like one or the other of similarly-named people. This isn’t the author’s fault, and all I know is that I thought she did a great job of making someone able to overcome grief so “quickly,” actually plausible by her choice of people and the backstory. That isn’t easy to do, so I know I’ll be checking out her other works to see if I like them as much as I suspect I will.
As I said in the beginning, I think this is a well-written collection, but the organization and extremely short length of each novella added weaknesses that might otherwise not have been a problem. Will I read other collections by this publisher? I don’t know. It seems prudent to at least try one more set to see if this was a fluke or if it’s a continuing problem.
Tell me… have you read any of the similar collections to the Great Lakes Lighthouses? Do they have problems like this? Did you enjoy them? Did you find new authors that are now favorites?