Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

LOVED THIS BOOK.  I want it to be a series, but also don't think any others could be better.  Magical, emotional, and dark.

ARC from the publisher via NetGalley, but the opinions are by own.
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Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s Woman of Light is a beautiful family history beginning with The Sleepy Prophet of Pardona Pueblo to the Fourth Generation of the family consisting of Luz (literally the Woman of Light) who reads the future in tea leaves and her brother Diego, a snake charmer.  While the story is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude which also follows generations of a family using magical realism, Fajardo-Anstine’s novel goes farther by showing race discrimination over time.  I particularly appreciated the author’s focus of race discrimination in Denver since it is a history which is only now being openly discussed.  My only criticism is the use of alternating chapters between past and present which early on drag the story down, but then the story moves to resolution much too quickly in the last 10% of the book.  Overall though, novel succeeds on many levels and engages the hearts and mind of readers.  Highly recommended!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an early ARC of this book.
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The author, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, comes from a long line of storytellers and she honors those who came before her in her latest novel, Woman of Light. The novel is a multigenerational family saga centering around two main characters, Luz and Diego, who find themselves in a hopeless situation and have to move to Denver in the 1930s to live with their aunt. While there, one of Luz's side hustles is to read leaves (tell customers their futures) and Diego is a snake charmer. Her family before her resided in the Lost Territories and had lives that are described as vividly as Luz and Diego's.
Fajardo-Anstine brings this novel to life in sensory-rich details. She has the ability to paint a picture and leave the reader wanting more. I am never put off by books that switch from the present to the past, especially when I get a clearer view of the whole story.
It's hard for me to read historical fiction that has so much truth behind it because it hurts to see how ignorant and unfair people can be to one another. I am always hoping, searching, and turning the page for a positive ending or outcome. This novel definitely has some moments of heartache, just like real life. However, it also illustrates unconditional love, perseverance, mysticism, courage, and hopefulness.
I enjoyed this book and overall found it well written. There were times, however, that a storyline would abruptly stop and I would question if the character would act that way or wonder why the story felt disjointed at that juncture.
Overall, Woman of Light is a lush, immersive historical novel worth the time to read.
*A special thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.
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Woman of Light follows a young woman, Luz Lopez, in 1930s Denver as she experiences visions of her past ancestors in the Lost Territory while navigating her own adult life.

Honestly, the title, the description, and the cover all looked blah to me. This was not one I was dying to pick up, but I’m glad I did. Kali Fajardo-Anstine has a gift for writing narrative that I just didn’t want to stop reading. I would absolutely pick up another book by this author.

That said, there were some flaws that made this a good book rather than a great book. While I appreciated that the different time periods and narratives of different family members added suspense to the story, it also made it difficult to follow. There were also scenes that didn’t feel true to the period, such as a proposal scene and wedding scenes. They felt as if they were in modern day America, not 1930s Denver. The ending also left me confused, underwhelmed, and wondering what just happened.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the advanced copy!
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3.5 stars.
Following several generations of a woman’s family, Kali Fajardo-Anstine tells a tale of deep connections, bigotry, identity, and the history of Denver.

Luz, whose family is at the centre of this story, lives in bigoted and segregated Denver. Luz has visions of her ancestors, and we get vivid stories of her family's past, and how they came to be in this part of the world. In the present, Luz works as a secretary for a lawyer.

The glimpses we get of Luz's relatives were fascinating, and actually, I would have loved more time spent in these scenes. I also felt the transitions to the past and back were a little confusing.

I found it actually a little hard to connect with Luz; Luz has terrible taste in men, but I'm not sure if I disliked them mainly because of how slight their characterizations were. That aside, I really like the relationships Luz had with her friend Lizette and her brother Diego. 

I went into this book with high hopes, and though I loved many elements, I was not as entranced as I was hoping to be.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Random House Publishing Group for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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Thanks so much to the publisher and to NetGalley for giving me access to this book.  Historical Fiction are a favorite genre in our library.  It is great to have more and more books that give us the perspective of Indigenous voices.  I am giving this novel a strong recommendation.
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DNF - I tried to read this twice & at that point I know I have to accept that the story isn't for me. I wanted to love this; it fits into genres that I adore but, I could not engage my brain into wanting to continue reading this. Maybe it was the writing style or the story or, something else but, ultimately, I wasn't the ideal reader for this. I'm glad to see so many other people have found their way to this book & love it.
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Initially I was a bit put off by the very dense description and language, but the characters were interesting so I kept going. The going became easier and by the end I was won over. A good read.
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The sense of place in this book was strong, which is something I look for in fiction. Fajardo-Anstine clearly loves her home city of Denver. The characters were interesting.
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This book was beautifully told. Personally there was something missing that im not 100% sure I could put my finger on and that is why I gave it 4 stars and not 5. I would recommend this book because I think more people need to read it.
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Woman of Light tells the story of Luz “Little Light” Lopez in 1930s Denver as she navigates both her life as a laundress and secretary and as the keeper of her family’s history through her visions of the past. She can read tea leaves which I for one find very interesting. This book switches between Luz’s current life in Denver and her relatives stories going back three more generations in the nearby Lost Territory.

The best part of this book is the impressive characters author Kali Fajardo-Anstine was able to craft. We connect with Luz, her aunt Maria Josie, brother Diego, and cousin Lizette and pull for them all. I did find, however, that I connected more with Luz’s story line than a few of the stories from the past. The constant switch between Luz in her current life verses her ancestors felt disjointed at times. 

My take away from this novel is that our past always informs our future and it’s important to keep history alive. The familial bonds in this story are strong and as I mentioned the character development of those in Luz’s family in her present story line were especially nuanced. Fajardo-Anstine also has a gift when it comes to describing scenes so vividly that I could picture them all in my mind. A good read for those interested in multi-generational novels or learning more about minority families in the 1930s West. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.
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I've never been so excited for a book and Woman of Light lived up to the hype. Set in the southwest, the book follows multiple generations of a family and the many storylines each of them is involved in. Woman of Light is a western, but more than that, a book about love, about family, and about the risks we take in pursuit of them both. Loved & savored every page, already looking forward to my next read through of the book.
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Woman of Light follows five generations of the Lopez family, over the years as the land they live on transitions from The Lost Territory to present-day (or, an early twentieth century version of) Denver. Everything focuses around Luz (the titular woman of “light”), a tea leaf reader and seer, in the 1930s. She lives with her aunt, Maria Josie, brother, Diego, and is best friends with her cousin, Lizette. Over the course of a few years, we watch as her brother must leave town for his own safety, Lizette plans her wedding (and wedding dress!), Maria Josie settles into her life (and love), and Luz struggles with both her feelings (the “safe and comfortable” Avel or her boss, a young attorney – and womanizer – David) and what she wants for her life. This family drama all unfolds against the backdrop of racial unrest and police brutality, told in turn with the stories of the past (the lives of Luz’s parents and grandparents), that brought the Lopez family to where they are today. 

Y’all, I badly wanted to love this book more than I did. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It had so much promise, and so many of the themes were in line with those that I loved from Sabrina & Corina, but there was just something missing, or just a bit off, here for me. A lot of it came down to the writing. It was fine, good even, in an overall sense. But the issue for me was that this was marketed as an adult book and it just read *so young.* I mean the themes were incredibly mature. The main characters were 18 (plus or minus) and (especially for the time period) were definitely considered adults and lived adult lives/responsibilities. And yet, for all that, this book reads *so* young, and not just like YA young, but like…naive, young. The sweetness and innocence to Luz started fine, but as things began to happen in her life, and she “saw” more and more of her family’s history, the fact that it stuck around felt somewhat incongruous. It was an interesting narrative juxtaposition, the presentation of such intense, serious topics (CW: racism/slurs, animal cruelty, colonialism, hate crimes, police violence, misogyny, and more) in such an innocent voice. It was kind of like a tall tale or western themed fable: there’s a message about society, but it’s passed on within a sort of fantasy/fairytale-like narrative. And I can see what it was going for, I think. But it never really landed for me.

Also, and perhaps this is because I have recently read some other truly phenomenal, and much longer, family saga type novels (The Arsonists’ City and The Love Songs of W.E.B. du Bois, for example), even the intergenerational family story and drama seemed…too surface-level and a bit too simple. So it could easily just be a situation of bad timing and/or not the right reader, but this one just didn’t quite hit the spot. 

I do want to recognize a few things that were really well done and/or that I respected, even if this wasn’t a new favorite read. I enjoyed the highlighting of a time/place combination that I do not know much about, from an intersectional perspective. The predominant “wild west” and “depression era” narratives (along with most everything in our nation) are white and cis-hetero. This was a fantastic highlighting of the sheer variety of peoples that make up this nation/land, obviously focused on Indigenous and Chicano families here, but with inclusion of other races and nationalities (Asian, recent European immigrants) and how they intermingled (or didn’t, as it were).

Fajardo-Anstine does a wonderful job, too, of showing how the intolerance of our nation was universal and widespread; the Klan was not just a Southern thing and police violence (and upholding of the legacy of white supremacy) has been endemic against all minority populations since…well, since the arrival of white people on the continent. As has the fight for real justice. I enjoyed seeing some recognizable aspects (like, did I correctly interpret the reference to the “start” of Red Rocks as we know it, as a performance venue, today?). And, there were some vibes similar to When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky that were also really interesting, like looking at these less-well-known parts of history (a similar time period, though very different parts of the country) and some really unique show-boat type jobs (in this case, snake charming and tea reading and sharpshooting). Last, is it just me, or were there some aro coding/vibes around Luz? Whether or not it was purposeful, that’s how I chose to read her, and I liked it. 

I’m not sure how to wrap up my thoughts about this novel. It was fascinating, as far as exposure, for me as a reader. I was interested in it, for the most part; the characters were original, the plot was well-paced, the themes were compelling and the emotions were correctly placed (remembrance, anger, hope, heartbreak, contentment, etc.). The sense of place and time was spectacular. Plus, the ending was…*chef’s kiss*…as far as looking towards a brighter future while still shining a light on the past/ancestors. To that end, the title was also spot on with its meaning and named-based wordplay. And yet, it felt sort of under-developed in the way it was all brought together. Or told in the wrong voice. Or none of that and it just wasn’t the right fit for me. Who knows.
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DNF 48%

Absolute snoozefest. Tried really hard to be open-minded about this piece but the writing didn't appeal to me all. Too little character development and not enough plot.
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Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. Pub Date: June 7, 2022. Rating: 🌟🌟. I love historical fiction and I was excited to dig into this book because it was a fresh contribution to this genre. Unfortunately this novel following five generations of Indigenous Chicano family members in the American West did not deliver for me. I felt the story did more telling than showing, felt drawn out and had a lot of bouncing around of timelines and characters making the story not flow as well as I wanted it to. Thanks to #NetGalley and #randomhousepublishinggroup for this e-arc in exchange for my honest review. #womanoflight
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I liked the characters and plot and the interweaving of the different generations’ stories. It drops you into the middle of their life and gives you a snapshot of time and how they all deal with what is handed to them and how that changes the next generation.
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This multi-generational story is beautifully written and fleshed out the West in the early 20th Century. It covers five generations of a Chicano family from the Lost Territories from the late 1800s to the 1930s. The women in several generations have the gift of sight. The protagonist is a tea reader and seamstress who faces the challenges of racism in the 1930's.  The more things change the more they stay the same.
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Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Random House, One World for accepting my request to read and review Woman of Light.  I sincerely wish the outcome was better.

Author:  Kali Fajardo-Anstine.  
Published:  06/07/22
Genre:  Fiction: Historical, literary, & Women's

Awkwardly, I am going on the record, historical fiction is my absolute favorite genre.  I was intrigued by five generations, Chicano Family in the American West, 1930s Denver.  I will admit I have picked up and loved HF books on less.  I found the prologue enticing.  Sadly, the story never gained a point of interest.  I was at part two and couldn't describe part one.  I started over with the basically the same outcome.  At part three, I threw in the towel.  

I believe this is written for someone else.  The book isn't bad, it just isn't interesting to me, and I can't connect.  I will remember the cover and that I had the book, and that's all.  I am going with 2.5 stars and rounding up to 3 factoring that I can watch a television commercial, enjoy it, and not be able to describe it 10 minutes later.
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Woman of Light is a great coming of age story of Luz, an indigenous woman growing up in 1930s Denver, Colorado. I love how, throughout the book, her family's past is woven into and shapes her understanding of the present. In Luz's case, it is through her gift as a seer, but I think we are all given glimpses into our family's past in different ways as we grow and begin to piece together the stories we create of ourselves. More broadly, Although this book is fiction, I felt like it was an extremely insightful and honest look into Denver's deeply segregated past by casting a rare light on an early urban Indigenous experience.

I'm thankful to have been given the opportunity to read an Advance Reader Copy of this book and cannot stop recommending it to all readers interested in the West.
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Took a chance on this one as it is not something I would normally read and now I realize why. I could not get into the story and was just bored trying to read it. I guess that sometimes happens and it appears others have really enjoyed it so "to each his own".
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