ARC Review of Light from a Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris

Posted September 9, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Publisher: Crown
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Pages: 336
Genre: Literary Fiction, Adult
**I received an E-galley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Light from a Distant Star: A NovelLight from a Distant Star: A Novel by Mary McGarry Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:

Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s “Scout.”

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence – gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. His family’s century old hardware store is failing and Nellie’s mother has had to go back to work. Nellie’s older half-sister has launched a disturbing search for her birth father. Often saddled through the long, hot days with her timid younger brother, Henry, Nellie is determined to toughen him up. And herself as well.

Three strangers enter Nellie’s protected life. Brooding Max Devaney is an ex-con who works in her surly grandfather’s junkyard. Reckless Bucky Saltonstall has just arrived from New York City to live with his elderly grandparents. And pretty Dolly Bedelia is a young stripper who rents the family’s small, rear apartment and becomes the titillating focus of Nellie’s eavesdropping.

When violence erupts in the lovely Peck house, the prime suspect seems obvious. Nellie knows who the real murderer is, but is soon silenced by fear and the threat of scandal. The truth, as she sees it, is shocking and unthinkable, and with everyone’s eyes riveted on her in the courtroom, Nellie finds herself seized with doubt.

No one will listen. No one believes her, and a man’s life hangs in the balance. A stunning evocation of innocence lost, Light from a Distant Star stands as an incredibly moving and powerful novel from one of America’s finest writers.

Review:

This was seriously one of the strangest books I have ever read. I’m trying to get into more literary fiction, and so far I have liked it very much. Some of the stuff I read is borderline, but I think this fit the description of literary fiction very well. It definitely had a distinct style and voice. More on that in a minute. It has been compared in some reviews to To Kill a Mockingbird and I really can’t comment on that because that is one classic I have not read yet. I know. But it’s on the list and I will get to it at some point.

The story here is tragic. And to be honest, kind of hard to find. It’s buried in there well. There isn’t much of a story at all for the first 100 or so pages. If you are looking for a quickly paced and riveting novel, this isn’t it. Yeah, there’s a murder. And a trial. But it’s certainly not a legal thriller either. I guess you could call it a coming-of-age story, but personally, I don’t think that works either. The narrative is meandering and it definitely has elements of a character study. I guess what I am trying to say is that Light from a Distant Star is very much a genre-bending read. It’s a literary fiction, coming-of-age, murder mystery, character study novel. Phew! And still that doesn’t completely cover it.

Like I said, it takes a while to get to the point. But when it finally does it’s worth it. There were a few times when I contemplated putting it down because it really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then I was like, “Oh, what the heck, I’ll read a couple of more pages.” And then from there it turned into 20 more pages, and then 50, and before I knew it, I was really into the story and didn’t want to put it down. And I didn’t. I stayed up until dawn reading this, and I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not. I think I did, but it was so different from anything I have ever read before, that it’s very hard for me to rate, summarize and review. It’s style was a bit strange too. It felt like it was written in a different time, almost historical, but it wasn’t. It’s contemporary. Weird. Very weird. And that’s what I mean about distinctive style. It was very much like a game of ‘Chutes and Ladders.’ Very up and down and all over the place, but in a good way.

I’d definitely recommend it to fans of literary fiction. Maybe Jodi Picoult fans and fans of that type of fiction. But keep in mind the distinctive style and that there is a plot, it is just more of a character study than plot-driven. And that’s just my personal opinion. And the characters aren’t very likeable. Well, most of them anyway. You’ll see what I mean. If you think this was a strange review, wait until you pick up the book. It gets weirder.

To purchase (pre-order) from Amazon, click here: Light from a Distant Star: A Novel

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