Thirty miles off the coast of California sit the Farallon Islands. To visit them is to feel as though one has cast aside the constraints—and comforts—of civilization. At best, these shores of shale and rock have been ungenerous to humans trying to eke out a living; at worst, they have proven deadly.
In Abby Geni’s dazzling debut, The Lightkeepers, a young photographer named Miranda joins a small band of biologists who study the birds, sharks and whales that migrate annually to the islands to mate and spawn and, in some cases, die. Though her integration into the group is far from seamless, Miranda finds herself connecting with the bleak and barren beauty of her surroundings. However, when an act of unspeakable violence is perpetrated, it unleashes a cycle of destruction and devastation that not all of them will survive.
With The Lightkeepers, Geni has crafted a novel filled with wide-open spaces and also a creeping claustrophobia. The setting takes on the role of a character, and the Farallons are masterfully brought to life on the page through Geni’s luminous prose. There is a soothing, hypnotic quality to Geni’s writing—and an unexpected tenderness, too, one that belies the thick sense of malice and increasing sense of dread that swirls about Miranda’s island home. Though some of the plot points are predictable, the story is rife with satisfying surprises, in large part because of the successful air of uncertainty that surrounds Miranda’s narration. Riveting from beginning to end, The Lightkeepers is unsettling in all the best ways.