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The Lightkeepers

List Price: $16.95

December 13, 2016 | Paperback | 6 x 8.9, 368 pages | ISBN 9781619029026
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Winner of the 2016 B&N Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction

In The Lightkeepers, we follow Miranda, a nature photographer who travels to the Farallon Islands, an exotic and dangerous archipelago off the coast of California, for a one-year residency capturing the landscape. Her only companions are the scientists studying there, odd and quirky refugees from the mainland living in rustic conditions; they document the fish populations around the island, the bold trio of sharks called the Sisters that hunt the surrounding waters, and the overwhelming bird population who, at times, create the need to wear hard hats as protection from their attacks.

Shortly after her arrival, Miranda is assaulted by one of the inhabitants of the islands. A few days later, her assailant is found dead, perhaps the result of an accident. As the novel unfolds, Miranda gives witness to the natural wonders of this special place as she grapples with what has happened to her and deepens her connection (and her suspicions) to her companions, while falling under the thrall of the legends of the place nicknamed “the Islands of the Dead.” And when more violence occurs, each member of this strange community falls under suspicion.

About Abby Geni

ABBY GENI is the author of The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction and the inaugural Chicago Review of Books Award for Best Fiction, as well as The Last Animal, an Indies Introduce Debut Authors selection and a finalist for the Orion Book Award. Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of the Iowa Fellowship.

Praise
Praise for The Lightkeepers

"Readers [...] will find themselves carried along by a sturdy, rather old-fashioned thriller ramped up by some modern, ecologically themed plot twists... The plot is structured like that of a horror film, moving from one alarming event to another, and in between, maintaining a tension around the question of how much worse the situation will get... [a] peculiar, atmospheric novel... It's become customary--the fallback consolation of the book reviewer--to say that one is eager to see what a writer will do next. But in fact that is the case here. Ultimately, what engages us in The Lightkeepers, beyond its energetic plot, is the sense of watching its author discover her ability to construct a suspenseful narrative. And we finish this novel curious to find out what sorts of stories Abby Geni will choose to tell."--New York Times Book Review

"... chimeric, constantly shifting from mystery to travelogue to natural horror and beyond. For the first one hundred pages, Geni is content to build tension and atmosphere through pure, distilled prose, forgoing any direct attempts to kickstart the plot. And then, violence. In the end, Geni's transcendent novel is as merciless, strange, and coldly beautiful as the islands she describes... The Lightkeepers is a haunting, brutal, rain- and blood-soaked story of humans at the mercy of nature... With The Lightkeepers, Geni joins the ranks of Barbara Kingsolver and Annie Proulx--novelists for whom nature is a driving narrative force instead of a backdrop. However, Geni's debut is a few shades darker than Prodigal Summer or Close Range, and instead of Kingsolver and Proulx's architectural prose, Geni writes in small, perfect sentences stripped of ornamentation, often single clauses. It's a beautiful effect; pages pass quickly and effortlessly. By the novel's end, you'll crave another journey with Geni to some other wild, forgotten corner of the globe."--Chicago Review of Books

"As Geni's novel makes explicit from its earliest pages, the islands are dangerous, and they emerge immediately as a character, vivid as the protagonist despite having no voice of their own... Geni has taken her time to build up to a closing revelation, and the passages of nature writing, of which there are many, are fascinating; some can evoke both the mystery and the menace of the wilds, demonstrating how people can simultaneously be enchanted by and terrified of unknowable and impenetrable life."--Full Stop

""Geni's novel The Lightkeepers is the perfect ghost story, and so much more. It is full of a deep, detached sorrow--it is frightening, upsetting, disturbing. It creeps up on you. It embodies the sensation of looking over your shoulder in a dark room, and finding nothing there... What The Lightkeepers does so successfully is moor us in a fog of unreality, where it is unclear what is real and what is merely a shape in the mist... Rarely have I ever seen a piece of literature capture loss so accurately, and so beautifully. It paints loss as an absence so powerful that it becomes its own presence--like the light and dark that define a black-and-white photograph... The Lightkeepers is not a novel that can be summed up in a neat concluding line. It is brutal. It is lovely. It is both of these things at once. The darkness borders the light, defining its limits, lending greater depth. In the end, they are inextricable."--The Literary Review

"1 of 10 titles to pick up now."--O Magazine, March issue

"The strange and desolate Farallon Islands serve as the backdrop for this evocative and enchanting debut novel... Geni writes with the clear, calm confidence of a master storyteller. This is a haunting and immersive adventure, set in an unforgettable, wild habitat of its own." --Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"The six biologists of the Farallon Islands, like the animals they observe, survive on instinct. Even as they analyze and obsess, they act upon each other with ferocity, with tenderness, with primal need. We are as captivated by, as trapped by, these islands as the characters -- and no one in this hypnotic story, including the reader, stands on solid ground. The Lightkeepers is a stunner: intense, surefooted, masterful. This is a book to swallow whole." --Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House

"Miranda's travelogue, at once emotional and dreamy and rendered in crisp, stunning prose, is so central to the book that readers may at times forget the underpinnings of the locked-room mystery or brush off the question of her reliability as a narrator...Geni may be unmatched in her ability to describe nature in ways that feel both photographically accurate and emotionally resonant. Natural wildness, human unpredictability, and the subtle use of literary devices are woven here into a remarkable, vertiginous web." --Kirkus (Starred Review)

"What a strange, wonderful novel this is. At once a soaring paean to the natural world and a story filled with mystery and intrigue as deep and dark as the sea. The Lightkeepers is mesmerizing."--Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

"Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part meditation on the cruel impartiality of nature, The Lightkeepers holds the reader enthralled in the grasp of an achingly vulnerable, creepingly unreliable narrator. Evocative of Lily King's Euphoria, this riveting debut novel is both an exotic escape from the familiar world and an unflinching exploration of the universality of human nature." --Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men

"The Lightkeepers is an easy recommendation for readers of all genres. The excitement of the novel lies in its undercurrent of suspicion. Each character is just complicated enough, each excursion just dangerous enough, and each passage just suspicious enough to keep the reader on edge and guessing until the last page."--BookBrowse

Praise for The Last Animal

"I have known for a while that Abby Geni is a brilliant writer, and I'm happy that at last the world will find out. These are sharp, incisive, thoughtful, and utterly original stories, and I recommend this book with all my heart!" --Dan Chaon, National Book Award Finalist, Stay Awake and Await Your Reply

"Abby Geni is a sharpshooter, a tamer of wild animals, a clear-eyed wonder. The Last Animal is a phenomenally ambitious debut collection and announces Geni's many talents to the world with the volume of a herd of stampeding elephants. I loved this book, and you will, too." --Emma Straub, The Vacationers

"Combining the cool precision of a naturalist with the heart of a born storyteller, Abby Geni catalogues an astounding array of characters whose lives have been undone by the mysterious departures and disappearances of loved ones. Instead of solving these mysteries, she plunges us deeper into them, and the results, like so many of the creatures in this book, are strange, haunting, and beautiful." --Jim Gavin, Middle Men

"Abby Geni's worlds exist at the boundary between desolation and abundance, civilization and nature, love and loneliness. It is as if everything and everyone in these beautiful stories is at least half wild." --Ramona Ausubel, A Guide to Being Born

"The Last Animal is a work of rare insight and beauty. Abby Geni's vision is expansive and haunting and wholly new, and she illuminates her characters' loneliness and longing in a way that will break your heart. This book is about love and animals and loss and the whole world; you must read it." --Karen E. Bender, Refund

"It's rare to find a single story that's both highly imaginative while also unflinchingly earnest, thrilling while also deeply moving and wise. With The Last Animal we get ten stories that fulfill this ambitious criteria, and an amazing collection that announces Abby Geni as a powerful and original new voice in fiction." --Alan Heathcock, Volt

Indies Introduce Debut Authors (Selection, Fall 2013)

"When people let you down, the natural world might just be the place to find solace, or so I surmised from this fascinating new collection of short stories. Whether it be Alzheimer's, depression, affairs, or reasons yet to be determined, the family members of Abby Geni's characters keep disappearing. Even the surrogates, like one beloved camp counselor, can't be depended on. But fortunately there are substitute connections, whether it's the teen student of 'Dharma at the Gate' who has her dog, or the young aquarium worker of 'Captivity' who is quite aware of the intelligence of the octopus. One museum worker turns to specimens to process his grief at losing his mother, while another man turns to his clients' plant woes after his wife's miscarriage. Even in the stories I wasn't as drawn to, Geni's work is filled with unique images and situations. In my favorite stories, her characters and imagery are heart-stopping." --Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

"Whether it be an ostrich or an octopus, a manatee in the ocean, a butterfly collection in a museum, or a flight to freedom, the pages of these lively stories are populated by denizens of the natural world--and by those who relate to that world, and those who cannot. Reasons for leaving are clarified, intellectualized rationales are simplified, a mysterious death at a summer camp is mythologized. Intriguing, quirky characters, all at crossroads of one kind or another, are surprised by events or sometimes by unwanted knowledge. An impressive debut by a writer with an interesting sensibility, an arresting voice, and a clear and compassionate understanding of the vagaries of humanity." -- Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

"The Last Animal is a collection of entirely original stories that are a true pleasure to read. Geni has a genuine gift for intertwining the lives of people and animals. I believe that this collection will appeal to all types of readers and will be wildly popular." -- Sherri Gallentine, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

"Human predicaments are complemented by the wild natural world in this excellent debut story collection from Chicago-based author Geni. The characters and events here are unusual and far-reaching, but Geni's careful craftsmanship renders them immediate and real. Each story is threaded with page-turning, deeply felt tension, yet each has also been planted with a seed of magic in varying stages of growth... An entrancing collection, recommended even for those who generally shy away from the short story." --Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

"The short stories in Geni's debut collection beautifully reveal how exposure to nature helps people in emotional pain to recover. In each well-researched piece, Geni vividly depicts the setting, as well as the animals or plants that play important roles...Al1 ten stories here are wonderfully written, with precise language and a true compassion for the hardships of the characters. Highly recommended." --Library Journal (Starred)

"Geni's first book puts us on notice. Here is a fiction writer who perceives the many forms of consciousness at work on the planet. In shrewd, sure stories, Geni registers the life force of trees, deciphers the confusions of human emotions, and considers the mystery of our interactions with other species... Endangerment, disappearance, isolation, love adrift, the attempt to hold on to and define life--Geni illuminates each condition and effort with keen realism and empathetic imagination to wondrously disquieting effect." -- Booklist

"Heartwarming and touching stories written with an understanding of the world around us in a delightful delicate way. Guaranteed to reach even the coldest heart so bring your tissues as you enjoy these stories. Well balanced and skillfully delivered with a bit of flair. This book comes highly recommended." -- BooksBooksBooks

"Abby Geni's debut short story collection, The Last Animal (Counterpoint Press), seeks, in her own words, to explore 'one of the great illusions of the human experience... that we are somehow outside of nature--beyond the food chain--that we are not animals ourselves.' It's an enduring premise that still feels ripe with possibility--a post-Romantic examination of man vs. nature, prehistory vs. technology, intellect vs. instinct. It's eons subtler than Planet of the Apes, far less satirical than Animal Farm, less epic than Moby Dick, and absent of anthropomorphism. Rather, it's a plainspoken, earnest collection that finds its home somewhere between Megan Mayhew Bergman's quietly moving Birds of a Lesser Paradise and Lydia Millet's darkly absorbing How the Dead Dream." --KGB Bar & Lit Journal

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