Cover Image: Returning Light

Returning Light

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Member Reviews

Many thanks to NetGalley and Mariner Books for the ARC of this beautiful, haunting work. This one won't please all readers. But I recommend reading it slowly but consistently. The story of a man who lived in Skellig Michael for 30 summers. The writing is solid but could have used some editing. Overall, this was worth the time and I will not ever forget this one. It is unlike anything that I have ever read. I love going to new places. Definitely recommended.

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I was looking forward to reading this book, but the anticipation was more exciting than the book. I don't know how the author was able to write almost 300 pages about a secluded rock with birds and some ruins. I know this sounds harsh, but that's the way I came away from this book. I always thought Skellig Michael was kind of magical. After reading this, most of the magic is gone. I thank NetGalley and Mariner Books.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Mariner Books, and Robert L. Harris for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Returning Light is the author's account of his experiences of spending May through September/October for thirty consecutive years on the small island of Michael Skellig, eight miles off of the southwestern coast of Ireland. The island is the farthest bit of land sticking out into the Atlantic, so it is the first hindrance in the path of the prevailing weather coming off of the unrelieved ocean. Therefore, the weather can be especially harsh and changeable. There are ruins from a monastery that was abandoned in approximately the twelfth century CE. Nowadays, there are some twelve thousand tourists a year that come to visit the steep rocky island to observe the monastic remains, bird rookeries, or simply to experience the beauty of the site.

The author weaves all of these facts into his experience on Skellig Michael but even more than drawing a physical picture of what life is like on the island, the author attempts to draw a picture of what the isolation in such an unforgiving environment is like for him and also possibly for the previous inhabitants. In doing so, the author draws the reader supernatural pictures of what it feels like to be so isolated. He is especially fond of using light in his otherwordly descriptions. Some of the time, these metaphors seem overdone or forced. Certainly the author's spiritual experiences on the island are central to his experience living on it but I had a difficult time following much of his imaginings.

This book would be perfect for a reader that enjoys the style of very old texts. I think the style will seem rambling and unfocused to most modern readers, but that style is essential to tell the story of Robert L. Harris' experience alone with nature and spirits and light. The assumed foundation of godliness and the poetic inserts are quintessentially Irish and fit very well here.

If I were to be marooned on an island, this would be one of the books that I would choose to bring with me!

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I had high hopes for this book, but it was very repetitive, overly descriptive of light effects, etc. I don't consider it to be an in-depth treatment of a special experience: spending significant amounts of time in an isolated and beautiful setting.

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Skellig Michael, a remote island off the coast of Ireland is the stuff of legends. Perhaps most famous for the collection of stone buildings constructed by the monks that lived there nearly one thousand years ago, the island is also home to some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the world. Harris became the warden in 1987, after seeing the position posted in the newspaper. The position was brand new, so no one knew quite what to expect, least of all, Harris. But the island’s wild beauty and isolation won him over and he spent thirty years at his post. This is his account of his time on the island, a love letter to Skellig Michael and the natural world. One of the most compelling pieces of nature writing I have ever read

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