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First Light

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  412 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Hugh Welch has cared for his little sister Dorsey ever since they were children, when Dorsey looked at him as though he were a god. But when Dorsey returns to their small Michigan hometown with a successful career as an astrophysicist and a happy family life, Hugh, who has a long habit of worrying about his sister, realizes that it’s his own life he has to cure, not Dorsey ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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(showing 1-30 of 867)
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David Legault
I finished this book at 11 o'clock at night, and as a result I couldn't sleep without medication.

I mean this as an ultimate compliment, this book stuck with me in a way I haven't experienced in years. The narrative continually works backward, which shifts the focus of the book away from the plot (we know how it ends) to the characters. Beautiful story.

Do yourself a favor and read this book.
Stephen Phillips
Sep 24, 2011 Stephen Phillips rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants an introduction to Charles Baxter
Everything on earth is what it is and something else. Everything gives off a signal. Most people never hear any of it. Their ears are closed. You have to listen with your whole body, everything in your soul...and to everyone you know, and all objects, everywhere. You can break your soul trying to hear.

I was struck by this quote near the end of Charles Baxter's first novel, First Light. In the scene, one of the protagonists, Hugh, is offered advice by his father after accusing him of being distan
Came to this novel because it was on Jodi Picoult's reading recommendations and I'm always interested in books that another author recommends. The main big deal about this book is that it is written in reverse and that made me curious.
This was the author's first novel; pior to this he was known for his short stories and each one of the chapters in this book could really be a short story in itself. The first chapter is actually the end - it is the present day when the brother (Hugh) and sister (D
Dorsy, her son Noah, and her husband Simon (who doesn’t like to use maps) are driving from Buffalo, New York to visit Dorsy’s brother Hugh, who lives with his family in their parent’s old house in Five Oaks, Michigan. Dorsy moved to California and became a successful astrophysicist while Hugh remained in the same town his whole life and became a car salesman.

Charles Baxter goes back in time with each chapter of this novel to show how very different the lives of siblings Hugh and Dorsy can be…fro
The first chapter of this book introduces you to a brother and a sister in their forties who are celebrating the Fourth of July together, along with their families. There is some tension between the siblings, but they also obviously have a lot of affection for each other. The secret of that tension and affection is revealed in chapters that unfold in reverse chronological order. So, the second chapter is about the sister and brother just days before they meet for the Fourth of July. It follows t ...more
A blurb about a different book by Charles Baxter reads, "Perfectly modulated, unerringly seen, and written in prose of transparent beauty..." That seems to me exactly right. I recently read a collection of interrelated short stories by the same author and was very impressed. This book (now almost 30 years old) shows the same delicacy and ability to imply much while saying little. It's written backwards, with each section occurring before the preceding one, and finishing in a series of short chap ...more
An interesting novel. I decided to read it based on a recommendation from someone in an online book group. They said it was remarkably well written, especially in how he developed his characters. It was pretty good in that sense, but throughout most of the book I found the characters to be less than believable.

They didn't mention the novel's central device, though, which is that it's written in reverse. It begins at the death of the main character (Hugh), and moves backwards in time, chapter by
I was in a field practicum where our professor enjoyed incorporating literature with our lessons on psychopharmacology and therapy, but he never went over it. In the middle of the story, I doubted my patience in finishing it, but I read the entire book and really really tried to figure out its relevancy to our course. Unfortunately I never did. I tried to go into it with an open mind, I really did, but it was painstaking to get through. I found the narrative thread (done in reverse chronological ...more
I like the idea of this book, I can understand what the author wanted to achieve, a brilliant concept, writing the story in reverse but I don't think he actually achieved his goal. Many parts of the story were left unanswered and I do believe we are the products of our past but I kept hoping for the present to be explained and it never fully was. I had hoped this would be book club worthy, but not going to select it.
Itasca Community Library
Jeff says:

Charles Baxter goes back in time with each chapter of this novel to show how very different the lives of siblings Hugh and Dorsy can be…from their reunion on the Fourth of July to pick up fireworks from a woman who has known them since they were children, all the way back to when Hugh’s father tells him that he has a sister now and that he will have to love and take care of her.
I read this because Charles Baxter taught creative writing at the U of MN while I went there. I never actually took one of his classes, but his name was familiar to me.

He's a fantastic writer. First Light has so many vivid characters - no one's forgettable, and everyone seems real. The narrative structure of the book - reverse chronology - is a bit kitschy, but I appreciate that he didn't take the predictable route of alluding to and then revealing awful childhoods. Hugh and Dorsey actually had
Sam Hunter
I wasn't sure until now with that vanilla name of his, but I just confirmed that Charles Baxter also wrote my favourite story in The Best American Short Stories 1991. I guess I'm now a fan.
I've readother novels by Charles Baxter and they were fantastic. However, though this story is not terrible, it can be a bit monotonious when reading about Dorsey and her affair with Carlo Pavorese. His rantings are so drawn out that halfway through reading, I was skeptical about my patience in finishing the book. I struggled through and I am glad I did, because the end is far better than the middle. I would not recommend this novel, but would very much refer readers to his other works, such as ...more
Coley Myers
Charles Baxter is one of my all time favorite authors. I re-read his books often. He has the gift of purely beautiful writing. No matter the subject, you will be drawn into a world of reading that ebbs and flows perfectly. He is an insightful author. He is from my birth state of Michigan, where this book takes place. It has a comforting, liquid feeling as you consume yourself in his carefully chosen wording.
I was intrigued by the author's reversal of the chronological scheme of his characters' lives. The book explores the relationship between Hugh Welch, the older brother who's a car salesman in Michigan, and his younger sibling, Dorsey, an astrophysicist, who mated with her physicist professor, an elderly oddball who is writing a biography of Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. An engaging read.
This rating reflects the excellent writing--I didn't necessarily love it but I appreciated it. Very character driven, it retraces the lives on a brother and sister and the things that drive and define their relationship. It literally goes backward as each chapter details an earlier incident than the last. It was satisfying and in satisfying at the same time.
I was recommended this book in reference to my own work, which I now see is a huge compliment. I wanted to spend more time with all these characters. The reading is so natural yet not shallow, structured in reverse time so we end with the brother and sister unit meeting for the first time. Hugh, Dorsey, Simon, Noah, physics, love, reading people.

A novel that moves backwards in time, from present to past, to tell the story of Dorsey Welch, an astrophysicist studying the origins of the universe, and her brother Hugh. Hugh remains in the small-town house where they were born, while Dorsey travels to California and becomes a wife and mother as well as a successful scientist.
May 16, 2007 cecelia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Julia
I've been trying to decide if this is book is a 3 star or a 4 star. I wasn't really in love with this book while I was reading it, although I do find myself thinking about certain scenes and sentences after I finished reading it for quite sometime. If you like "atonement", you might like this one too.
Susan  Odetta
"What if the universe is in an infinite process of expansion and contraction, like the bellows of an accordian being played through the creation time, it's obliteration, and it's recreation?"

"I may be getting too old to stalk and discover the elusive banality of truth."
Carolyn Dellerba
The story gave me the perspective of an older male sibling's unique responsibility to look out for the younger ones. The backwards approach to the timeline also brings a reminder of the adult is the product of the child and the sum of his life experiences.
Carol Vuillemenot
When I started this book, I said, "Wow, finally a good one." My previous two readings were bummers. Anyway, the more I read, the more I wondered the author's point. The writing itself is excellent. It's the story's time line that bothered me.
El estilo de este autor, sencillo y plácido aunque con una narración hacia atrás en el tiempo muy curiosa, en esta novela se centra en la relación entre hermanos con todo lo que eso implica. Muy recomendable
Gina Whitlock
I read 60 pages before I bailed on this book. Many people loved it, but I didn't care for any of the characters. I felt none of them had any depth as a person.
One of my favorites. We start at a point in time in a relationship and then the story is told backwards through time to reveal how the relationship evolved.
Rachel Hermans Goldman
One of the best novels I've read in a long time, and a really honest look at the evolution and strength of a brother/sister relationship. Everyone, read!
Cheryl Schibley
I really like the way this author writes. This is a very tender family story that is told in retrospect.
Dec 18, 2012 Jenny marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Had a good books conversation with a fellow at a garden party last year and he recommended it.
A beautiful, lyrical, and tender novel. Baxter is one of the best novelists writing today.
It's no Feast of Love, but it'll do a decent impression of it on a long, boring train ride.
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Charles Baxter was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Macalester College, in Saint Paul. After completing graduate work in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he taught for several years at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1989, he moved to the Department of English at the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor and its MFA program. He now teaches at the University of Minnes ...more
More about Charles Baxter...
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