Sunday, July 31, 2011


Story Description:

Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee's "Scout."

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence - gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. His family's century old hardware store is failing and Nellie's mother has had to go back to work. Nellie's older half-sister has launched a disturbing search for her birth father. Often saddled through the long, hot days with her timid younger brother, Henry, Nellie is determined to toughen him up. And herself as well.

Three strangers enter Nellie's protected life. Brooding Max Devaney is an ex-con who works in her surly grandfather's junkyard. Reckless Bucky Saltonstall has just arrived from New York City to live with his elderly grandparents. And pretty Dolly Bedelia is a young stripper who rents the family's small, rear apartment and becomes the titillating focus of Nellie's eavesdropping.

When violence erupts in the lovely Peck house, the prime suspect seems obvious. Nellie knows who the real murderer is, but is soon silenced by fear and the threat of scandal. The truth, as she sees it, is shocking and unthinkable, and with everyone's eyes riveted on her in the courtroom, Nellie finds herself seized with doubt.

No one will listen. No one believes her, and a man's life hangs in the balance. A stunning evocation of innocence lost, Light from a Distant Star stands as an incredibly moving and powerful novel from one of America's finest.

My Review:

Thirteen-year-old Nellie Peck is a tall, thin girl whose observation skills are better than most academics.  Nellie is inquisitive and questions and analyzes everything.  The bane of her existence is her younger brother, Henry, whom she sees as too immature and takes on the task of toughing him up.

Nellie’s father, Benjamin, owns a fourth-generation hardware store that is failing making it necessary for his wife, Sandy to return to work at the hair salon.  They also have the added income from Dolly Bedelia who rents their small apartment at the back of their house.  Dolly makes a very interesting character in the story as she is a stripper who works at the local strip club.

Ruth, Nellie’s half-sister decides to launch a rather disturbing search for her birth father which only adds to the family’s myriad of problems.

Then there is a murder as violence breaks out in the Peck house and Nellie knows who the real murderer is but is “…silenced by fear and threat of scandal.”  When Nellie finally takes the stand in the courtroom, everyone is sitting at the edge of their seats with their eyes glued on poor Nellie.  But no one will believe her and a man’s life is on the line.

This was a riveting story, a coming-of-age story that I wouldn’t want to have lived, but then again, my name isn’t Nellie Peck.  No one could live this coming-of-age but Nellie and I see her as a heroine.  This was a novel that will make you laugh, worry, weep, and wonder.  My favourite character is Nellie and I wouldn’t mind having her as a sister for she’d drive you crazy on the one hand and make you want to love her all the more on the other.  This is one book well worth reading!

***Preview courtesy of Netgalley***

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