Abby Geni insists she’s “always been a novelist at heart,” and with her provocative debut thriller The Lightkeepers, it’s clear the Evanston native is following her true calling. Part murder mystery, part ghost story, The Lightkeepers tells the twisting tale of nature photographer Miranda as she begins a one-year residency on the Farallon Islands – a remote, untamed archipelago off the California coast. Shortly after arriving, Miranda is assaulted by one of the six biologists studying the islands, and when her attacker is found mysteriously dead days later, she must struggle to face the reality of her assault as the violence escalates around her and suspicions run wild. An insightful exploration of the nature of recovery and the harsh indifference of the natural world, The Lightkeepers was described by the Chicago Tribune as both “an accessible page-turner” and “an astonishingly ambitious debut [that] like many literary classics… raises questions about humanity that are anything but light.” Back on April 25, Geni visited Bookends & Beginnings to read from The Lightkeepers as part of an EPL-sponsored event also featuring author Ben Nadler. If you missed her that night, however, have no fear because we recently spoke to her via email about her novel’s origins, bringing the Farallon Islands to life, and the human disconnect with nature.
Ben Nadler believes that “a writer owes a reader a good story,” and with his excellent new novel The Sea Beach Line, that’s exactly what the Brooklyn-based author delivers. A hypnotic hybrid of literary crime fiction and Jewish folklore, The Sea Beach Line tells the gripping coming-of-age story of Izzy Edel, a young man adrift after being expelled from Oberlin for hallucinogenic drug use. Given renewed purpose after receiving a mysterious postcard from his estranged father Alojzy, Izzy travels to New York City where he must navigate Alojzy’s world of street vendors, gangsters, and members of a religious sect as he searches for his missing dad. Filled with sharp insights on loyalty, self-reliance, and the complicated bonds of family, The Sea Beach Line was described in Library Journal’s starred review as “a mesmerizing narrative that will speak to any readers who have tried to make sense of their parents’ lives or the secrets that people keep.” This Monday, April 25th at 7 pm, you can hear Nadler read from The Sea Beach Line when he visits Bookends & Beginnings as part of an EPL-sponsored event also featuring author Abby Geni. In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about literary traditions, his novel’s origins, the history of Hasidic tales, collective memory, and a few of his favorite books and poems.
My name is Jeff Garrett. I am a born Evanstonian, the son of Northwestern parents and the father of two Northwestern graduates. After graduating from the University of Munich with a degree in linguistics and history, I worked at the International Youth Library in Munich as a language specialist for five years before returning to the US in 1988 and getting my library degree from Berkeley. I worked as a librarian at Purdue University for five years and at Northwestern for 19, retiring this past February from Northwestern as Associate University Librarian for Special Libraries. With my wife Nina, I opened Bookends & Beginnings, an independent bookstore catering to the reading needs of the Evanston community, in June 2014.
1) The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon’s Josephine by Andrea Stuart (2005)
My wife and I vacationed on Martinique in the French Antilles this year, and this book seemed like a great way to satisfy my curiosity about its (completely unknown!) history and combine it with my general interest in 18th century Europe. And I was not disappointed! The book looks at what it was like growing up Creole in the French colonies 250 years ago, gives a credible, detailed look into slave culture on the sugarcane plantations, then whisks the reader off to Paris where a young girl from the provinces goes through the Revolution, meets and then marries the most dazzling figure of the age, Napoleon Bonaparte.