"The Light Pirate" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
We’re besieged with headlines about climate change and its effects—hurricane season starting earlier, lasting longer; catastrophic flooding from unusually heavy rains; wildfires threatening centuries-old forests; and unrelenting heatwaves. These issues make “The Light Pirate,” a new book by Lily Brooks-Dalton, a novel that entertains but has serious overtones that are scarily real.
The story opens with tension and heart-stopping action—a hurricane is approaching Florida, affected for years by rising tides until the beaches have all but disappeared.
There’s chaos outside Frida and Kirby’s home and chaos within. The couple met in Puerto Rico a year before when Hurricane Poppy ravaged the island, taking the life of Frida’s dear friend and leaving Frida grief-stricken and shaken. Kirby, a lineman by trade, swooped in after the storm to clean up and restore electricity. “He was a man who knew what to do next when no one else did.” Shortly thereafter, Frida and Kirby married, his second her first, but life hasn’t been easy for the newlyweds.
Kirby brought two young boys to the union, Flip and Lucas, the latter child disrespectful and challenging, the exact opposite of Flip. The trying relationship and Frida’s pregnancy have her nerves jangled. When Kirby leaves with his crew to help with hurricane preparations, he asks Frida to watch the boys, but she feels exhausted and anxiety ridden about having endure another hurricane.
As the storm gathers strength, Frida lies down and the boys sneak out of the house, not realizing they’re putting their lives in danger—they’ll get back before the storm hits, Lucas tells Flip, urging his brother to accompany him.
The outcome of their disobedience has tragic, lifelong repercussions in the first of four sections of the book, the latter sections centering on Wanda, the baby born to Frida on the traumatic night she gives birth during a hurricane by the same name. (To include more about the plot would spoil this cautionary tale.)
“The Light Pirate” is an atmospheric, intense tale of survival—not just the survival of the main characters but of the world as we know it. Brooks-Dalton writes beautifully about nature and the earth we are blessed to inhabit, and what we are in danger of losing.