From The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events, and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years.
“They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”
1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.
1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.
Lighthouse keeping, courage, and a complicated family history connect two women living a century apart in this wispy tale from bestseller Gaynor (The Girl Who Came Home). In the 19th century, modest, dutiful Grace Darling assists her father in rescuing the survivors of a shipwreck. Among them is a young mother, Sarah Dawson, who lost both children to the sea. Grace's display of exceptional bravery in venturing out in the middle of a raging storm catapults her into sudden and unwanted fame. In the 1900s, Sarah's descendant, the rebellious Matilda Emmerson 19, pregnant, and unwed is sent from Ireland to Rhode Island to live with lighthouse keeper Harriet Flaherty, her distant, eccentric relative. While in Rhode Island, Matilda researches her family history, uncovering both Grace's tragic, forgotten love story and startling revelations about her own parentage. Grace and Matilda's lives parallel each other as both exhibit quiet bravery, fall in love with artists, and develop intense connections with the lighthouses they tend. Gaynor's writing is capable, though the story is slight and the link between centuries feels tenuous at times. The novel will appeal to fans of low-key women's fiction, but readers looking for drama won't find it here.