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The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Literary fiction

The Light Pirate

by Lily Brooks-Dalton
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Quick take

Life (and hope) find a way to muddle through after the levees break and the waters surge in this meditative novel.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Dystopian



Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels gradually wreak havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Kirby Lowe, an electrical line worker; his pregnant wife, Frida; and their two sons, Flip and Lucas, prepare for the worst. When the boys go missing just before the hurricane hits, Kirby heads out into the high winds to search for them. Left alone, Frida goes into premature labor and gives birth to an unusual child, Wanda, whom she names after the catastrophic storm that ushers her into a society closer to collapse than ever before.

As Florida continues to unravel, Wanda grows. Moving from childhood to adulthood, adapting not only to the changing landscape, but also to the people who stayed behind in a place abandoned by civilization, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.

Told in four parts—power, water, light, and time—The Light Pirate mirrors the rhythms of the elements and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow dissolution of the world as we know it. It is a meditation on the changes we would rather not see, the future we would rather not greet, and a call back to the beauty and violence of an untamable wilderness.

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Why I love it

You know that feeling of liking a fictional character so much that you actually want to become friends with her? That’s how I feel about Wanda, the brave, stubborn, badass heroine of The Light Pirate.

Wanda is born in the middle of a hurricane. Her coastal town in Florida is nearly destroyed, but baby Wanda survives. These devastating “once-in-a-century” storms are now happening every year. As she grows into a girl, and then a young woman, the landscape around her rapidly transforms—the air is warmer, the seas are rising. Wanda has no choice but to adapt. So she grows her own food, and paddles her canoe through mangrove swamps, and she fights to survive as the wilderness takes back the land.

Even though it feels like the world is ending, Wanda sees the beauty in that world: the birds singing in the trees, the water lilies blooming in the mangrove swamp. She learns to do more than survive. She makes new friends. She falls in love. A person can choose to fear or embrace the wilderness. Which do you think Wanda chooses?

Certain books move into your heart and stay there forever. The Light Pirate is one of them.

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