caitysreadviews's Reviews > A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin, Fenwick Island, Delaware, 1861

A Light in the Storm by Karen Hesse
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Aug 06, 13

Courtesy of Caity's Readviews:

This is the most dull, dreary, and depressing book in the Dear America series I’ve read to date. Taking place during the onset of the Civl War in Delaware, a border state where both Union and Confederate sympathizers dwell among one another, A Light in the Storm by Karen Hesse follows sixteen-year-old Amelia (“Wickie”) Martin, assistant to her father, an Assistant Light Keeper.

Amelia is content with her life and her many chores and duties among family, school, and the lighthouse. But the strong cultural and political differences between her abolitionist father and Southern belle mother begin to drive a devastating, irreconcilable rift between them, casting her father into darkness and her mother to severe illness and misery. Her parents’ separation is disturbing and painful to read about.

On top of being depressing, this book is insufferably boring. Virtually two thirds is talk of nothing but the weather–literally!– while absolutely NOTHING at all happens. There is hardly a story to follow, nor any reason to sympathize with characters, and even barely anything educational, unless you’re interested in the temperature, amount of precipitation, and direction of the wind on Fenwick Island in 1861 (information which this book does provide quite liberally). Amelia herself is written as cold, dry, lacking in color and personality, strangely stoic and masculine. She also somehow, despite being described as “uncomely” and “homely,” kindles a romance with a young soldier. But even this plot line is wasted as their relationship ends up being entirely unfruitful (hardly a good message to send to young girls with divorced parents about their own future relationships!).

The author attempts to draw parallels between the two plot lines of light keeping and the Civil War, but they never truly intersect, never make a cohesive connection for me. While we read some of Amelia’s listless droning about her fears and discomfort regarding the civil disagreements and pending war, the war never affects her light keeping duties and ambitions, which is what her personal story is really centered around. I often felt that the Civil War setting was completely unneeded, a distraction from the story the author really wanted to write.

Nonetheless, I have never read such a densely boring diary, factual or fictional. There is hardly a compelling, educational, or worthwhile tale to be found here, and I do not suggest wasting your time with this one, unless you happen to be a lighthouse enthusiast.


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