Finding My Light – A Novel at the Marquette Lighthouse
Chris Shanley Dillman, author of Finding My Light, recently published an article in Michigan History Magazine about her ancestors, the Truckey family, who cared for the Marquette lighthouse during the Civil War.
I was thrilled when I first heard about this novel a few years ago because Dillman’s ancestor, Nelson Truckey, was a captain in the Michigan 27th during the Civil War, and my own ancestors, Jerome White and his father-in-law, Edmond Remington, served under him. In fact, I have documents where Nelson Truckey testified to their service when they applied for their pensions.
Furthermore, August is Maritime month in Marquette, so I thought it appropriate to post about the novel. Here is the book review I wrote for it which is currently also on Amazon. If you love Marquette, history, or lighthouses, this novel is one you don’t want to miss.Amazon Review:
Chris Shanley Dillman’s “Finding My Light” is the finest young adult novel I have read in many years, and one I think adults will enjoy as well. The story tells of sixteen year old Emma Truckey, left behind with her mother and siblings to tend the lighthouse in Marquette, Michigan on Lake Superior during the Civil War, while her father, Nelson Truckey goes off to fight in the Michigan 27th.
Emma’s internal journey begins as one of self-doubt, but when her mother must travel to Canada to care for her sick sister, Emma, as the oldest child, finds that the responsibility of keeping the light and watching over her siblings fall upon her shoulders. With the help of her siblings, and her new friend, Bobby, Emma discovers the strength and inner resources she has always had. Bobby is a charming, fun friend who is able to help Emma discover her own value. Bobby dresses like a boy and is not afraid to step in and help out where needed. She is especially Emma’s strength the night of a shipwreck when the two of them must go out in a rowboat to rescue the only survivor.
The plot thickens with the rescue of the shipwreck survivor. Emma quickly discovers he is some sort of spy, but she does not know if he is a spy for the Union or the Confederacy. The result is a mission she must go on to help protect the Union. Her adventures ultimately lead to her growth and her reliance upon herself as her own best friend.
I wanted to read “Finding My Light” because I am a native of Marquette, Michigan where the book is set. I am also an author who writes about the Marquette area so I was curious to see how a fellow author treated the same region. However, most of all I was interested in “Finding My Light” because the Truckeys in the novel are the author’s actual ancestors, although she did fictionalize parts of the story–author’s license of course. My own great-great-grandfather served in the Michigan 27th with Nelson Truckey, so I was ready to learn plenty about the time period of my ancestors. While the book captures the historical time-period and the feel of early Marquette as a small community, I was primarily impressed with the strong character development in Emma, who truly does find her own light during the book. The revelation she has at the end is one that will resonate with readers, especially young adults who are learning their own self-value as they move into adulthood.
While I will not give away the ending, I know the author is planning a second book related to this one which includes a female disguised as a boy joining the Michigan 27th. I am already impatient to read it.
I rank this book up there with “Dandelion Cottage” and “Granite Harbor” as one of the best young adult books produced about the Marquette area, and no doubt, the book has universal appeal to readers despite time period, location, and gender. I congratulate Chris Shanley Dillman for writing what I hope will become a classic.
– Tyler R. Tichelaar
More Marquette Maritime posts will appear throughout this month, including passages from my upcoming book My Marquette.