Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

Wow! The author truly takes you on a journey through her words! This journey through the Southwest was exactly what I needed. This story is beautifully written and takes you through a Chicano family’s history and more specifically, Luz “Little Light” Lopez’s life as she navigates it on her own after her brother is ran out of town. The story isn’t just Luz’s, but that of her family and their saga. Loved this book so much!
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This book was great! I usually shy away from family stories but this one kept me very engaged. The (now named) American West is portrayed as very white and having this story reflects my own reality as a Mexican/Chicana woman better. The writing is gorgeous and really brings you to whatever place and time the book is at the particular moment. It is somehow sweeping and specific. Any fan of Sabrina and Corina will appreciate her debut novel.
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Kali Fajardo-Anstine takes the reader on a historical, heart-felt and somewhat mystical journey through the Southwest, particularly Colorado, which has been home for the multi-cultural family of Luz Lopez. Her ancestors have faced violence, hardship, poverty, separations and long journeys. Yet the history and its mysteries prevail through what is known, and the womenfolk who have risen in each generation.

The book begins in Denver c. 1930s, with vital and evocative descriptions of a carnival, with a kaleidoscope of characters. Luz “Little Light” emerges as the main focus, a young girl on the threshold of becoming a woman. She is gifted with a type of sight that enables her to glimpse the future and perhaps recall the past. That is also the book’s pattern in establishing Luz’s family story  and background..

This is a richly rewarding title reflecting the impact and strengths of family traditions, bonds and aspirations. Recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this title.
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This was a DNF book for me. I didn't connect with any of the characters, moves very slowly, and did not interest me at all. I received an advanced readers copy and all opinions are my own.
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I received a complimentary ARC of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Random House in exchange for a fair review.
Woman of Light is a multi-generational story about the Lopez family which starts in 19th-century New Mexico and follows their migration to 1930s Denver. The story centers mainly on Luz who is a seer, but also includes her brother Diego who entertains and hustles with a snake charmer act.
I did enjoy reading this book and the author’s prose is spare and exquisite. This is a story of the West that isn’t a typical cowboy or settler story. These are people who have lived on this land for centuries that are now being displaced and treated as foreigners.
However the reader should not expect a historical novel rich in details. The author seems to only give enough detail to make her setting. Otherwise these characters could almost be living in any time. Perhaps that was intentional?
This is also not a traditional linear historical story. The narrative jumps around in time and also from character to character. At times it was difficult for me to keep all the players straight.
In the end the novel just didn’t absolutely take off for me, it felt like a light treatment of what should be weighty historical fiction. I am glad to have had the chance to read it. I enjoyed the author’s style and now I want to try her short story collection where I think her writing style will really shine.
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Thank you Netgalley and One World Books for the advance copy. This was a good book. It took me a while to get into the story, but I may have been distracted by outside issues at the time.  Once I got into it, it went by quickly. This is historical fiction set in Denver, along with in the Lost Territory - land that was lost to the US from Mexico, in this book the settings there were in what is present day New Mexico. The story is about Indigenous people, Filipino people, and how their lives looked in Denver in the 1930s, along with the backstory of Luz's family from the Lost Territory.  The writing is very descriptive and the reality of the streets of Denver come through, with all the blood, dirt, and fecal matter that is often not spoken of in popular historical fiction. 
Luz has a mysterious gift of being able to read tea leaves and see visions that often tell her the future, nor exactly but enough to warn her of things.  She also struggles with wanting to be her own person in a time when poor women of color had very few choices in life.  I really liked Luz and I wanted more of her story by the end.
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This book took me a few chapters to get involved, but once I was, I stayed engaged. A historical novel set in 1930s Denver, it's a character driven story, focusing on Luz, a 17-18 year old Mexican girl trying to figure out her life while living with her aunt in Denver. It's an ambitious undertaking to cover the events of past events and family while keeping the current day story relevant and moving forward. It's mostly well done though there were a few times when looking to the past that I lost the thread of the relationship connections.

In the big picture, it is an immigrant story of a marginalized culture and the difficulties of getting ahead in those circumstances. There's instances of racism and some violence depicting the attitudes of the time. Told in a non-linear way, the back story of many generations (sometimes confusingly presented) is revealed through Luz's visions when doing tea leaf readings. I fell in love with her strong Grandma (that she never knew) - she was my favorite character after Luz.

I loved Luz's story and reading about finding her way and discovering and honoring the importance of her family history. Her thoughts & decisions seem very appropriate to her age - she's a well developed character. A solid ending.  Watch for it in June and add it to your wish list.

My opinions are shared here, on Goodreads, Storygraph, and my blog Bookshelf Journeys.

Thanks to #netgalley and #randomhousepublishing for the advance copy of #womanoflight
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I adored the author’s previous short story collection and was eagerly waiting to read her first novel. The book begins slowly, and we are introduced to Luz, her snake charmer brother Diego and the eclectic aunt they live with. The time period is 1930’s Denver, CO and we experience the prejudice this Hispanic/Native American family encounters. I was very interested in the time period and the cultural history, but I never really got hooked on the characters or the story itself. 

For a character-driven novel, all of the characters were somewhat flat to me. Luz had then potential to be incredibly interesting with her gift of visions and reading tea leaves, but nothing really became of it. The plot veered in an unnecessary direction and it never fulfilled the story it was meant to be.

Thank you to #netgalley for an ARC of this book. I do recommend reading her previous work, Sabrina & Corina.
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I received this from Netgalley.com.

"The wildly entertaining and complex lives of the Lopez family fill the pages of this multigenerational western saga", and I usually enjoy these sometimes complex and emotional sagas. This saga was just - blech. I found the characters one-sided and I never became attached to them.

2☆
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This was a beautiful story that will stay with me for years to come. The writing was beautiful and so very captivating. I learned so much from this book and enjoyed reading about the different generations of this Chicano family. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the e-galley in exchange for an honest review!
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This is a story about family, and follows through many generations.  I look forward to reading the author’s other novels.
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I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  I thought the writing was strong, but the beginning was sloooooow.  It took me awhile to get into it.  

I really enjoyed the generational aspect to it, though.  I appreciate this style of storytelling, and I think I would have loved more of Simodecea and Maria Josie's stories near the end, rather than in the beginning.  Luz's story was easy to read, but the love portion of it wasn't nearly as interesting as what her grandmother and aunt went through.
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I’ve gone back and forth between 3 stars and 4 for this book. It is a multigenerational saga set in Denver between the late 1800s and the 1930s. I loved the setting, both because I used to travel to Denver frequently so some of it was familiar to me, and because I have not previously read much set there. I also liked the multicultural cast, from the protagonist Luz and her Chicano family, to the Greek, Native American, and Filipino supporting characters. It made for a well rounded story and an eye-opening perspective on racism in the 1930s.

What didn’t work as well for me was the nonlinear timeline and Luz’s visions of her ancestors. The jumping around in time was confusing and I wasn’t as interested in the earlier part of the story. Even though much of the book was from Luz’s perspective I still didn’t feel like I really knew her and struggled to understand some of her decisions.

I settled on 3 stars because of the slow pace and timeline but appreciated the author’s thoughtful approach to the Chicano experience.

Thank you to @randomhouse and @netgalley for the #gifted ARC. This book is out June 7th!
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This is the literature that I truly love...⁣
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I am about 25% in and I am just loving this story. I love multigenerational sagas, as you know, and this one is layered so well.⁣
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Summary⁣
Written in Kali Fajardo-Anstine's singular voice, the wildly entertaining and complex lives of the Lopez family fill the pages of this multigenerational western saga. Woman of Light is a transfixing novel about survival, family secrets, and love, filled with an unforgettable cast of characters, all of whom are just as special, memorable, and complicated as our beloved heroine, Luz.⁣
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I will keep you posted about my final thoughts on this one!⁣
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Thank you @netgalley for this free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts. Woman of Light is out June 7, 2022!⁣
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*Thoughts after finishing:
I loved this book. Where first the jumping timeline threw me I fell into it quickly and just loved these characters. Luz will be an all-time favorite character.
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Book: Woman of Light  

Author: Kail Fajardo-Anstine  

Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars  

 

I would like to thank the publisher, One World, for providing me with an ARC.  

 

Once again, we did have the makings of a great book. However, I just found the overall execution of it to be rather lacking. The emotional pull, great storytelling, and amazing character arc is there. We can see all of this and can get hints of it. However, it just doesn’t come across on the page. There were times that I was fully invested in the story. Then, I would turn the page and find myself wondering what had happened. In order to keep the emotional pull going, you have to keep it up. You have to give your reader a reason to care. You have to give us something to hold onto and lack onto.  

 

The makings of very complex and developed characters are there. We can see hints of this through, not only their backstories, but their actions. We can see how each of them has struggled and how they just want to have a better life. However, again, I felt like there wasn’t enough there to keep me fully invested and engaged in what was going on. I personally would have liked to have seen some more depth to them. I would have liked to have seen the bones of these characters stretched a little bit. It felt like there was more there than what we were getting. I just would have liked to have seen more. I do believe that had these characters been fleshed out a little bit more, then we would have had some great arcs.  

 

The writing was there. Again, the bones of great writing were there, but it felt like we were missing something. We had some great character and plot moments. There were times, however, that I felt like we were missing. There would be pages were I was fully invested in the story and the writing had me hooked. Then, I would turn the page and all of this would be gone. It honestly felt like the author was holding back on us when it came to the writing. There was a story that the author wanted to tell, but couldn’t. I don’t know if anyone else felt like this, but I did. It felt like the author was trying to tell this story but, for some reason, could not bring herself to do so. When an author comes across as holding back, the reader is going to pick up on that. If you have a story to tell, then you have to be willing to go for it. You have to be willing to take those chances and push the limit.  

 

Overall, the bones of a great story are there, but I just felt like it was missing something in order to bring it home.  

 

This book comes out on June 7, 2022.
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I find it terribly difficult to judge the merits of a literary book like this. I find it much easier to review a mystery or thriller based on the originality of the story. Having said that, I did enjoy Woman of Light. It took place in a time and community that I’m not very familiar with. The story had an episodic feel since it moved around to different characters in different times. I liked the characters and was rooting for them to succeed, although I was often concerned for their safety.
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Woman of Light sounded like exactly what I was looking for, but for some reason, this did not scratch my historical fiction itch. We have a multi-generational story containing lots of people of color with different cultures and histories, including indigenous people and their struggles. This takes place between the 1800s to the 1930s, and involves different perspectives.

For most of the story, we are following Luz, who is a young woman struggling not only with poverty, but discrimination and racial prejudices. She can read tea leaves, but she also works as a laundress as well as a secretary throughout the novel. This sounds like a novel I would love, but I felt extremely removed from this story. Everyone was very one-dimensional, and the last half was so rushed it almost felt unedited. It ended abruptly with zero consolation or closure for any of the characters. 

I also found it hard to care and connect with the past chapters because they didn’t mesh or blend with the present chapters in a coherent story. This is very “slice of life”, and I usually love those, but I still need an ending point and I need to connect to the characters. A lot of the plot made no sense - does Diego have his own magic with snakes? Is his gift genetic? What was the relevance? I didn’t see anything with snakes in the past chapter with his ancestors. Also, why give Luz these visions and talents and not have them do much of anything in terms of affecting the daily lives of her loved ones??? 

There was a severe lack of character development for me, and only a small amount of plot. I honestly don’t think that we needed the past chapters. Or if we did get them, if they were told in a different way than the present chapters. The continuity in this story needs some serious work.

**Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review**
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I first heard about this book as I was copy editing a feature on the author, and the concept sounded right up my alley. A historical fiction novel spanning generations? Check. A Latina author writing about Indigenous and Mexican families in the American West? Sign me up. A main character trying to find her place in a society designed to overrun her? Just give me the book now!

For the most part, the book lived up to my expectations. It’s exceptionally well-written, and every sentence deserves to be savored; Kali Fajardo-Anstine has a beautiful way of crafting images and emotions that linger long after you’ve turned the page. She paints scenes in subtle but detailed ways; never smacking you over the head with her descriptions of people, places, and things. And some of Fajardo-Anstine’s lines hit me deep — I had to pause for a few moments to process what she’d just written because it was so poignant and evocative. The book’s setting is rich and explores a place and time — Denver around the Great Depression — that I was unfamiliar with. And Fajardo-Anstine makes it come alive with sounds and smells (it pops in the most extraordinary of ways) across seamlessly woven timelines.

On paper, the characters were wonderful and interesting. But they never quite felt fully realized. In particular, that rings true for our main character, Luz, with whom I felt a tenuous connection. I wish that Luz was, well, a little more well-lit. She’s intriguing, and I loved reading about what she was seeing and experiencing, but I never felt like she was a dynamic character. And when she mentions wanting more from life, we never see her take steps toward achieving that. Right as she starts to come into her own, the book ends rather abruptly. Her ability to read tea leaves and see the future is never explored as much as I hoped it would be, given that it adds a really interesting potential for exploration of magical realism and could have made her more intriguing and forceful as she reckoned with the gift — or the burden — her ancestors gave her. But her gift is mostly just a parlor trick here. While there’s a tense atmosphere, because Luz feels far away from the stakes in the novel, it lacks much urgency. 

I say that, though, having still loved the experience of reading this book. If I could write a quarter as well as Fajardo-Anstine does within these pages, I’d be a happy camper. Her voice is magical, and it’s important. And the story itself is a fascinating one — it’s a beautiful tale of a dark history that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem all that removed from our present. My bet is that if Luz was reading your future, your tea leaves would tell her you’d enjoy this book. 

Special thanks to NetGalley, Random House/One World, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine for proving me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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I really enjoyed the characters and scenery of this book. Some of the word pictures were new to me but so fitting. Because that was so good, the timeline and story development was lackluster. I kept waiting for connection and conclusion to no avail.
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While this book occupies the same territory as Fajardo-Anstine's astounding debut, Sabrina and Corina, it lacked the magic of the earlier book.  I did like the extended story addressing the progress of one family, but felt there were gaps in the narrative that could have made the book even richer.
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