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The Effects of Light

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  747 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
Throughout their childhood, Myla and Pru Wolfe pose for a haunting series of photographs, many involving nudity. Young, beautiful, and motherless, the sisters bond fiercely in their shared sense of loss, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and status as favorite subjects for family friend and photographer Ruth Handel. The photographs fire each girl's psyche with a sense of ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 14th 2006 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all-time favorite books. It is a haunting story with a shocking ending. It is written with such emotion and description. It completely engulfs you. The storyline also forces you to question your own values and aesthetics as to what is art and what is pornography.
Serena Caron
Sep 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's intelligent and kindly written. It's about academic families. It was much more suited to my tastes than I expected it to be. I learned some things about photography while reading it. And it had more than romance - it was more like that 'kindred spirit' feeling between the protagonist and her man. A nice weekend read for a person who likes drama without the hysterics.
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Libro scovato tra tanti titoli in svendita; non sapevo cosa aspettarmi, non avevo mai sentito menzionare la scrittrice, né il titolo di questo romanzo. Ma come succede spesso quando faccio questi acquisti casuali, il libro si è rivelato un ottimo acquisto.
Una storia avvincente, ben narrata, e che offre molti spunti di riflessione.
Una storia narrata a due voci, su due diversi piani temporali; da una parte un narratore esterno ci introduce nella routine rassicurante di Kate, che resta tale per mol
Jan 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction, 2012
The Effects of Light tells the story of two sisters being raised by their widowed father, a brilliant academic in the world of art. When a family friend photographs the two girls at the ages of 3 and 8, it marks the first in a series of images that span the girls' coming-of-age. The photos, some in the nude, are eventually shown publicly, leading to outcry over the "pornographic" images with devastating consequences for the whole family. One daughter is left behind to wrangle with the long-lasti ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had been hoping for more when I read the reviews ("similar to The Lovely Bones and Girl with a Pearl Earring") and the synopsis, but it never really came together.

The premise of the story was intriguing -- where's the line between art and pornography if the subjects are children, and should their opinions sway it? It was told in alternating points of view: present day Myla, the older sister, and past Pru, the younger one.

The present day parts were, as a whole, so boring that I skimmed throug
Max Gordon
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As artfully composed as the photographs at the heart of this compelling story, The Effects of Light tells the tale of two sisters whose self-possession and beauty make them the favorite subject of photographer Ruth Handel—and the center of a heated public debate over the boundaries between art and pornography. Raised by their brilliant widower father to "follow their bliss," Myla and Pru pose for both the pure joy of the creative process and for the tangible evidence of existence it provides, li ...more
Feb 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took some time to get into this one, even though I was interested in the characters right away. The author meanders too much into pseudo-highbrow philosophizing about art and its place in society, blah blah blah. Stick with it, though, and you'll find yourself immersed in a page-turner of a mystery with some devastating plot points along the way. Can't say anything more without risking a major spoiler.
Ngaire West-johnson
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this book on my shelf and couldn't remember where it came from. I read the jacket and decided to give it a try. I loved this book! It was haunting and stayed with me. Really made me think about different perspective. I would definately recommend it!
T. Greenwood
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading this amazing book by my amazing friend (who wasn't my friend the first time I read it), and thinking all sorts of good thoughts about the serendipity of things.
Nov 12, 2007 marked it as to-read
met this author at the doc lab - i should read her novel!
sarah b.
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I couldn't put this book down. The story was good and made me think beyond just the plot, plus it had enough mystery to keep me interested.
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked it for the descriptions of Oregon and the Metropolitan Art Museum. Too tidy of an ending. Pleasant read but not particularly memorable. It may be the kind of book I check out of the library years down the road having forgotten that I read it. In fact, I think this may just be the case...
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I am a firm believer that good stories aren’t defined by their popularity on the best sellers’ list. There are so many underrated novels and authors out there simply because most readers aren’t adventurous enough to wander deeper inside the labyrinths of their favourite bookshops. The most special gems, they say, are usually hidden on the hearts of caves. Okay, that cheesy metaphor failed a little. But I mean it.

“Effects of Light”, the debut novel of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, is case in point.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did like this book, but I am an artist and perhaps could relate to it a bit differently, as there was a good deal of discussion regarding the arts. (I found some of the author's points very eloquent and insightful). It may be a bit long-winded for most readers. I preferred her books June and Bittersweet, but still quite enjoyed this one.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
If you have experienced the pleasure of reading Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s most recent works, Bittersweet and June (my reviews are here and here, respectively), you are aware of the quality of the author’s writing as well as her character development and story arc. The stunning character of her craft sent me on a search for earlier books, and I found two (there are more, I think).

Today I’m reviewing The Effects of Light, Beverly-Whittemore’s debut novel with reviews ranging across the rating
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very solid writing, and an extremely intriguing premise. Even though there seemed to be a disconnect between earlier chapters and the rest of the novel, I continued because, given the mix of subjective themes – art, pornography and parenting, to name a few – reaching the end without some serious questions to ponder seemed absurd.

Sadly, though, that was the case for this reader. Despite the well-researched, erudite but earnest debate and reflection among principal characters, as well as the auth
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
9/9/11 - I liked this book a lot -- more than I'd expected to. I wasn't going in with bad expectations, but I wasn't familiar with the author & hadn't really heard any hype, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. Told from alternating viewpoints of two sisters, one in the present & one in the past, the story is gradually unfolded and presents a complicated and somewhat controversial subject matter. The two sisters, as children, are the subject of a family friend ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
The Effects of Light was a really complex, well-written novel about the relationship of two sisters with their widowed intellectual father. After the death of their mother in an automobile accident, toddler Prue and her older-by-five-years sister, Myla, become the subject of photographs by artist and close family friend, Ruth. Many of the photos show the two sisters nude and when Ruth chooses some of these photos to display in her first show in a New York City gallery, controversy surrounding th ...more
Jun 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book isn't thriller. Just a bit of suspense. I don't know which group I should put this book in. It's not funny, romantic or science fiction. It's a bit like Jodi Poict (I know I misspelled her name, shut up, haha). It's about 2 sisters who had their pics taken in nude when they were growing up. It's about how the society react to the nude pixs, as you know "PORN!!". My mom read this first and told me that she doesn't really like it. I wonder why, she said it's different. I don't know why s ...more
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great examination of the nude in the art world, this book looks at how we define pornography and how others opinions form our own. It jumps back and forth between the past and present, from one sister to another, and finally a few sections are written in second-person POV, telling you what the pictures in question actually look like. It also explores what it mean to love and trust someone while keeping secrets through Kate and Samuel's relationship. Their relationship is reminiscent of Catheri ...more
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
i really enjoyed this book. like hardcore. i got it like 2 days ago, started reading it last night and finished in the wee hours of the morn. however, while the story line was entrancing, it was one of those books that cause a somewhat frustrating itch that i could never scratch. forexample, i found the main character, myla, so tiring sometimes. she was insanely prone to feminine scruples. i dont understand what the deal is with why every single female protagonist has to be so ridiculous when it ...more
Mary Ellen
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a difficult book for me to review. The writing is wonderful, the characters, while flawed, are fairly well developed, and the story is compelling. I found myself wanting to keep reading, but for some reason I didn't love it. It took me a while to realize that the character telling the present day story was not the same one telling the "flashback" story, but even knowing that I found it to be a little too technical and academic. I would come to a part of the book where I wanted to get los ...more
Martie Nees Record
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Throughout their childhood till their early teens, two sisters Myla and Pru pose for a critically acclaimed series of photographs as figurative models. A female family friend is the photographer. The girls are beautiful, intellectually gifted, and motherless. They fiercely bond through their sense of loss, as well as through the art they help produce. However, this art was challenged over whether it was nothing more than child pornography. The novel has two narrators, Myla, as an adult who has c ...more
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this book after reading the jacket...but I found it at a local library book sale (actually, it was a pre-publishing copy)...figured I'd give it a shot. I thought the content was going to be disturbing, or too graphic...but it wasn't. For being 25 when she wrote it, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore has a great grasp on language and communicating what she wants to say. It took a bit to get past the back-and-forth storytelling (one character alive in the present, and one ...more
Michael Alan Grapin
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An intellectual group of friends passionate about art, a family torn apart by tragedy and a lone surviving woman reunited with a past she'd tried so desperately to leave behind until she's drawn back into her former life. Myla Wolfe is called back to Portland Oregon by a mystery and tries to rediscover the beautiful life lived with her sister and father and Ruth, a woman who created amazing photographs that became the center of a controversy about the fine distinction between art and pornography ...more
Dawn Bradley
Iv got mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I enjoyed the story although I was riveted by it through most of the story; other times i got bored and wanted to skip pages and get to something interesting that would make this a real page turner. Told from two different points of view (sisters) was interesting but many parts specifically about art I found boring. Only toward the end, go figure, do I feel this book really picked up. Overall I enjoyed this novel although I've read better. Inter ...more
Nov 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Tatiana by: liz
Shelves: do-not-own
the preachy-ness of this book really ruined a lot of it for me, if she had just let the art just exist instead of beating me over the head with how i should think about it and what i should take away from it, i would have liked it a lot more. it had moments, here and there, but the narration was uneven and at one point commits a faux pas that can't be forgiven in my mind. and i really think the author's climax was a cop out. it should have been much more brutal and terrible to really make her po ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
So I first read this book in college when my roommate won an ARC of it. I don't think she was a huge fan, but I really enjoyed it. When I saw it at the library a little while longer, I checked it out and read it again.

And now, here I am, six or so years later, reading it again. Anyway, I still really enjoy it! I love the feel of this novel, the tone. I'm not sure I can put it in to better words than that, but, despite all the sadness, it's the kind of world I want to live in, where people think.
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I love to meet with book clubs, either in person in the New York area, or via phone or Skype. Please email me:

I write novels. My fourth, JUNE, will be out from Crown Publishing on May 31, 2016.

My third novel, New York Times bestseller BITTERSWEET (Crown Publishing, May 2014), is set at the home on Lake Champlain where I spent my summers as a little girl. But that
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