Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

This historical fiction novel focuses on the multigenerational journey of an Indigenous Chicano family in the American West during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Through their eyes, we see the struggles they endure in order to survive, the racism and hate they face, and the hardship they must overcome.  

Luz, also called “Little Light”, is a tea leaf reader and inherits the family ability to “see”.  She works as a laundress and later as a secretary, while living with her aunt in the Denver area in the 1930s.  Her older brother, Diego, also works two jobs to help the family meet their needs.  They face the terror of racism firsthand, only being able to walk in certain areas of the community and avoiding the “Anglos” as much as they can.  They witness Klan marches and learn of brutal beatings and killings.  Throughout Luz’s story, the reader also learns of similar tales of struggle, love, heartache, betrayal, and loss that were endured by her parents and grandparents in the nearby Lost Territory decades earlier.  

This is a beautifully written novel.  I just traveled through the Denver area, and I felt like I was back there when I read this book.  It opened my eyes to the racism faced by the Indigenous and Chicano cultures during the early 1900s.  It broke my heart to read how many were taken and transported to other places to give white settlers more opportunities for work, while also being forcibly removed from their land to make way for mining establishments.  I loved Luz’s character, and her fierce love for her people and her family.  This book is a keepsake for the people of Denver, painting a portrait of its natural beauty and wildness, while also revealing the strength of culture and family in the midst of adversity and heartache.  Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for this advanced copy.
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This is a lovely historical, generational novel rich in Native American and Mexican culture.  The story is moving and interesting.  Thank you Netgalley for this advanced reader’s copy.
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WOMAN OF LIGHT by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is that rarest of pleasures: a gripping story of generations of a Chicano family in the American West that is also profoundly poetic and lyrical. Her story is filled with vivid scenes and fantastic characters and incredible, yet perfectly logical, twists and turns. From the start, I dropped into a magical world and never wanted to leave. I can see this book as a beloved book club read -- and am starting with my very own book group and town library. A masterpiece of story! I received an advance copy of this novel and these opinions are my own, unbiased thoughts.
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Thank you NetGaley, who for offering me a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a touching, multi-generational saga populated with extremely vivid characters I wished I could spend more time with. The main character of the story is Luz Lopez, a young woman with the gift of seeing into the future, and occasionally the past. Through her eyes we meet her parents, gandparents, and adoptive grand-grandmother. And at the end, we meet the next generation. It's a story of endurance in unfriendly lands, and unfriendly times. The narrative unfolds slowly, and yet every day I couldn't wait to have the time to pick up the book and find out what will happen next.  The writing is so evocative, that you can often touch, feel, smell, taste scenes as if you've been transported inside the pages of the book. "All around them they were enclosed with towering ponderosa pines and blue spruce, the smells of sagebush and pine sap riding the light mountain breeze, rushing over their skin and into their hair." Or: "A honey-colored wedding dress spilled forth like a foamy river". And the climax of the story was perfect--rarely do I gasp in response to what should have been a reasonably predictable event, yet the tension in the scene was amped up flawlessly.

The only reasons I didn't give the book a perfect score was that occasionally the author selected strange wording that wasn't quite correct--this happened often enough that I couldn't ignore it. "the cloudless sky grew crowded with two hawks that soared toward the red theater." (two hawks are hardly a crowd) or "Her cheeks balled with happiness" (the character was crying, but I doubt cheeks can ball). Eyes were generally strangely described, including pupils being compared to comets. And I also thought that Avel's real character being exposed abruptly at the end wasn't the best way to go about it--in reality there would have been warning signs that someone as perceptive as Luz would have picked up. In general I'm not a fan of the narrative "even nice men can't be trusted", it sends a toxic and incorrect message to the audience as well. Planting warning signs would have been more accurate and also a better narrative choice in my opinion.

Despite the minor flaws I mentioned above, the book was a great read, brought to life compelling characters, and I highly recommend it. I cannot wait to read more from this author.
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This wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't for me. Literary fiction is very hit or miss for me. The writing and characters were ok, I just didn't care about anything happening and I didn't really like the non-linear timeline.
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Anstine's multigenerational familial tale vibrates with the bonds and love of family. Her prose is vibrant and effortlessly brings her characters and their story to life. In a time where violence against People of Colour was par for the course for whites, Anstine manages to capture how these people rally together in their communities, families, and beyond to bring attention to the brutality they were subject to.

The connection between Luz and her brother, as well as her aunt and extended family really came across in both the dialogue and story. Her gift for seeing how lives may blossom and change speaks to her being a carrier of memory for her family. The time shifting between each generation, how their lives expanded and changed, how they slowly lost their land and were displaced, yet still managed to survive speaks to their resilience.

I would have loved to have spent more time with Maria Jose and Sara, but enough was said about their lives to allow for the reader to build upon. The losses, love, betrayals, and violence really held my interest and I was fully immersed in the existence of these characters.
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Woman of Light is a generational story about family with origins in the "Lost Territory" of the 1800s. It spans through the 1930s, focusing on Luz "Little Light" Lopez, who reads the future in her clients' tea leaves. The book pulls you in with a wide cast of colorful and unique characters. Fajardo-Anstine's prose paints vivid images, from the sweeping plains to the purple mountain ranges to the silver moonlight and liquid gold of a wedding dress. Every sentence is packed. The prose is flowery and often contrasts to portended dread: "The grass was textured blue, the sky a whisper of a day" just sounds like an ominous start. 

The story is interesting and the reader is engaged by Luz and her narrative, in the back story of how her people ended up in Denver after its origins in the Lost Territory (What we now consider Colorado? New Mexico?). In illustrating that there were people on the land, families going back centuries, in tune with the land, before Anglos arrived, the narrative soars. More stories about this period in this country, please!

Some awkward and clumsy scenes of passion don't quite land (my notes: Why? Clunky! Ew!) but this is a minor quibble in this sweeping novel.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I received a free electronic ARC copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, and the publisher Random House. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read Woman of Light of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. Fajardo-Amstome writes an intriguing tale with personable characters and a steadily evolving plot. She is an author I will follow. I am pleased to recommend her to friends and family.

This is a family story, roving from 1868 through 1934, taking place for the most part in Colorado and northern New Mexico. There are occasional forays into the 'Lost Territory', which I am assuming to be the lands below the Rio Grande that were ceded to Mexico after the war with Mexico. Our protagonists are the original settlers of this land, the Blacks, Native Americans, Spaniards, Greeks, and Mexicans who had called the southwestern U.S. home for many generations. The very people who were overlooked and overwhelmed by invading white settlers. We follow siblings Sara and Maria Josefina and Luz and Diego, children losing their parents much too young in a world that is harsh and unforgiving. Lizette will also play a big role, as best friend and protector of Luz, Lizette was a girl and woman always in the mix of these varied lives. Luck will play a minor role in our tale, but it is the strength and forbearance of these intrepid women who will hold you in thrall.

There is a great deal of bouncing around in place and time, so you want to give yourself unrestricted time to follow this story. It is followable, just requires concerted effort and the tale is very much worth the extra effort. Through the lives of these five individuals, you are immersed into frontier days, suffering the prejudices and problems, the joys, and satisfaction these protagonists feel as they make their way in this old world. My third or fourth thought after finishing this story at 5AM, was thank goodness I wasn't born until the mid-twentieth century. And how lucky I was to have spent my life for the most part on the High Plains Desert.

pub date June 7, 2022
Random House
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🇲🇽 Book Review 🇲🇽

#womanoflight
#KaliFajardoAnstine
#historicalfiction 

🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽.5/5 (rounding down for ratings) 

This book had been listed as a family saga. I've always knows sagas to be generational. This book does discuss 3 generations but on 3 timelines at once. Constantly jumping back and forth. Clearly marked but nonetheless, confusing. I was never able to get invested in one of the woman's lives before I got shifted to the next. 

I truly wanted to like this more. But I felt like I had to force myself to continue to pick it back up. Sadly, this was a meh for me. 

#bookstagram #booknerds #bookworm #booklover #bookdragon #readalot #ilovereading #inkdrinker #librarymouse #bookaddict #bookaholic #bookreview #booknerdigan #bookish #booknerdbookreviews
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Rich storytelling that expertly weaves stories across generations. Characters are beautifully written with every sentence carrying a lot of meaning. The story left me wanting more and inspires me to learn more about Indigenous Chicano experiences during this time period in the American West. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me an arc!
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Luz is a wonderful character! this book is very interesting and a really complex story. Very informative and unpredictable. An entertaining book that is a real page turner. The characters are complex and interesting,A really unique story! a must read!
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Woman of Light is sure to be one of THE summer books of 2022. It reads like a love letter to Colorado as we follow the tale of multiple generations of an Indigenous family in the 1930's. Beautiful prose with richly developed characters that you will fall in love with. Historical fiction lovers will really enjoy this one.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for this ARC.
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Woman of Light is a multi-generational story of a family in the wild west in the early 20th Century.  It spans the 1800's through the 1930's as we follow the Chicano family fight for survival against racism and harsh terrain they live.  There are also elements of magic through visions in the tea leaves foreshadowing the families plight through the years. 

The author has vividly written a story of the importance of family, traditions and survival.  Woman of Light is truly captivating historical fiction novel.  Highly recommend. 

Thank you Random House Publishing Group - Random House, One World  for the complimentary copy.
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Honestly, I loved Kali's short story collection. I actually had the chance to host her for a reading at our library and she is phenomenal in that regard as well. I am so glad to see that she has found success through her work and continues to share her words with the world. Her writing is so beautiful and descriptive. 

I could not get into this novel. It felt hard for me to follow and the setting didn't grab me. I am going to try to pick it back up again and use it for a book club discussion.
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✨Book Review✨

Thank you to @netgalley and @randomhouse for the eARC of Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. This book released on June 7, so happy belated book birthday. 🧁📘

This novel primarily follows Luz “Little Light” Lopez. Though, the chapters do jump around between her family’s generations, which can be a bit confusing in the first part of the book. 

I loved the fact that this book shared the story of how life was for indigenous and other non-white peoples during the first few decades of the 1900s. History books are primarily so white washed and this one opens your eyes to how it was for the other side. 👀 Lots of good group discussion topics covered here!

Luz can read tea leaves, giving her a bit of a magical quality. I really enjoyed her character development and growth even though there were a few times I had to shake my head at her decisions. 

This book just kind of ends? So, I’m curious to see if there will be a sequel, perhaps the beginning of a series? We shall see!
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Such an engaging read about history I knew nothing about.  Told in alternating timelines and voices, this story follows 5 generations of an Indigenous Mexican family in Denver, Colorado.

Spanning the years of the 1860s to the 1930s, the story feels mainly about Luz "Little Light" Lopez and her journey to find her history and her future.  She and her brother lost their parents when they were young, and were then raised by their Aunt.  Each of the three work hard to provide for each other, but still swim in poverty.  They are considered underclass citizens and are observed as less than. Luz's story intersperses with a "seer" woman in the 1860's called, the sleepy prophet, and a woman, Simodecea, in the 1900s who is a celebrated sharp-shooter.  Luz's best friend from childhood is Lizette and I just loved her.  She is full of energy, personality and self-confidence. But what I liked best about this story was uncovering how the strings of all these women's lives intertwined.

This vividly descriptive story walks the reader through racism, poverty, family, loyalty, strength, self-discovery and small bits of magical realism.  I felt transported to the old West and could feel the heat and the oppression.  Luz is able to read tea leaves, and as the story progresses, her ability to "see" also expands.  She knows very little about her ethnic history and her ancestors. The story reveals pieces of her history little by little through other characters.  This family has faced so many hardships and set backs, but continued to move forward with faith in a better future.  

This is definitely a slow-burn novel, but one that will captivate and engage the reader throughout.  I really enjoyed hearing from a perspective that was completely unknown to me.  I also appreciated the story focusing on a part of the US that feels less explored.  There were so many aspects to this book - history, family, destiny, relationships and purpose.  I definitely recommend.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House/One World for the arc to read and review.  Pub date: 6.07.22
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Could not get into this story. Giving up after reading the first 100 pages, which is highly unusual for me.
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A powerful and moving piece of historical fiction about a young Indigenous woman with the sight and the trials and joys of the generations before her, with deeply vivid imagery that transports the reader to stand alongside each character, to see and hear and feel as they do. Elegant prose, if sometimes at odds with the short dialogue style; the shifting timeline of the chapters avoid confusing the reader by linking easily in theme and plot to the chapters immediately before and after. Themes of fate, family, and self-actualization/responsibility make this saga feel timeless.
comp to: The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis (more TK)
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The writing in this historical novel set in Denver is beautiful. Luz is a tea reader and seamstress. Her story illustrates the challenges of being Hispanic or black in 1934, with the added weight of being female and paid less for the same work while being sexually harassed. 

The story is told in a disjointed manner, sometimes jumping back in various times in history of Luz’s ancestors. Sometimes this worked, other times it was frustrating because it interrupted the flow of the storyline, so I’d get into the plot and then get taken right out of it. For that reason, I didn’t love this book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel.
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Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

This felt like a Kristen Hannah book but with some more context and history. I think the multiple timelines left me unsatisfied and I was really upset about what Lutz did at the end and how everyone reacted. I think it was on the cusp of being something really engaging -- and I did learn a lot! I want to do more reading on this time period but maybe nonfiction. 

3 stars.
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