Gripping, romantic, and evocative of its time— A Shine that Defies the Dark is a spellbinding story of one woman who will stop at nothing to survive during a tumultuous time in American history.
After a six-year exile, Ophelia Breaux and her mother are overjoyed to return to the Louisiana bayou. But it seems the ghosts of the epic feud that drove them away still haunt Plaquemines Parish, and with the Great Depression sweeping the nation, the two soon find they can't make ends meet.
Seeing no other option, Ophelia's mother takes the drastic step of sharing her bed with the town judge in exchange for a reduced rent. The judge has had a life-long obsession with Momma, and Ophelia is desperate to end this arrangement and get her away from him.
When Remy Granger shows up, Ophelia knows it could mean more trouble—and that's the last thing they need. Handsome and dangerous, he's the first boy she ever kissed, and a member of the most notorious family in southern Louisiana—but he's also got an opportunity for fast money in rumrunning. Ophelia goes all in, and it turns out she may have a knack for the business. But she's going to have to run even faster if she wants to save Momma… dodging the cops, rival gangs, and her traitorous heart at every turn.
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Heart-wrenching historical young adult
“I was running with bootleggers, my Momma was sleepin’ with a man in exchange for a roof over our heads, and I was falling crazy in love with a member of one of the most notorious families in Louisiana, who as it turned out, isn’t as bad as I’d always been led to believe.”
What a lovely surprise. I almost didn't request this book because, honestly, the thought of young adult novel set during the Prohibition didn't really interest me... until I read the blurb. Also, the gorgeous cover certainly helped! And I am very glad I did - this is an amazing peek into life in southern Louisiana during Prohibition.
“Lord, how I had missed the bayou, I realized. Despite all of trouble my family had experienced, I was convinced that every good thing in the world started and ended in southern Louisiana.”
Ophelia is returning to Plaquemines Parish after six years in Charlotte, and the reader gets to rediscover the bayou along with her. The language is lyrical and evocative, and I could really feel Ophelia's love for her hometown. I especially loved the little bits of Creole sprinkled in. Ophelia is a wonderfully strong and smart character. At only sixteen, she's dropped out of school to help her mother, who's taken on numerous small jobs to support them, from washing laundry to canning tomatoes to darning laundry. While I didn't agree with some of the choices Ophelia made, I understood and respected where she was coming from.
“I guess it got to the point that every day in my life was filled with darkness. Then I saw a glimmer of light shine through and I ran toward it and put all my hope on it.”
I loved all of the Granger boys and their differing, complicated relationships with Ophelia, from Eloi to Remy to Sirus to Sunshine, though, of course, I loved Remy most. I loved how he supported her in learning to be a bootlegger, and how obvious it was that he cared for her and was happy to just spend time with her. I especially loved the picnic they went on. As for the other brothers, I admired Eloi's responsibility, Sirus' youthful optimism, and Sunshine's practicality.
“Maybe the problem was you were too focused on the dark to see the other sources of light”
Days later, I'm still processing this book. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how children are affected by the sins of their parents - and sometimes repeat them. I've also thought a lot about the dark parts of my life and what things were the "shine" then. I think this would make a great book club book, and I'm definitely looking forward to the release so I can make some of my friends buy it and read it so I have someone to discuss it with!
Overall, an enjoyable, heart-wrenchingly beautiful read!
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.