Book review: ‘Woman of Light’ a luminous and powerful multi-generational saga | Entertainment
BY ASHLEY RIGGLESON FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s work has been on my radar for some time, and her debut novel, “Woman of Light” is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I was so happy to have the chance to see the last of Fajardo–Anstine again. He did not disappoint.
“Woman of Light” begins with the story of a woman known as the “Sleepy Prophet” in the American West. She is gifted with eyesight and her story unfolds when she finds an abandoned baby in the night. Readers quickly learn an abbreviated life story of these characters. This multigenerational saga then begins to explore the lives of women of subsequent generations. We meet Maria Josefina, who would do anything for her family, and her niece, Luz, who inherited her sight.
The story of this native Chicano family is not told chronologically and instead moves through time. However, as the novel develops, certain themes begin to develop through the generations. Fajardo-Anstine is not shy about addressing controversial issues such as poverty and racism. And although the fragmentation of this novel, as well as certain events that occur throughout its pages, suggest that this is a novel in which intergenerational trauma plays a key role, the love of family l for each other makes it bright and hopeful.
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When I started this book, I had no idea if it should be called a novel. The first leaps between generations were quite shocking, and it was hard to see how Fajardo-Anstine would make this story of disparate pieces a cohesive whole. Still, the author ends up pulling the threads together beautifully, and it strongly reminded me of Kelli Jo Ford’s “Crooked Hallelujah,” which takes a similar approach in its storytelling.
The characters and setting of this powerful and poignant novel are alive, and Fajardo-Anstine’s voice is entirely his own. And I can honestly say that, while one can draw comparisons to other novels (the aspects of “To Kill a Mockingbird” come to mind), this novel feels quirky and vital. And while Fajardo-Anstine explores difficult themes, there are moments of happiness and love between the characters, and the sadness is never too much to bear. Instead, as it should be, love wins out.
Ashley Riggleson is a freelance critic for Rappahannock County.