Cover image for The lightkeeper's daughter
The lightkeeper's daughter
Lawrence, Iain, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
246 pages ; 22 cm
When, after a four-year absence, seventeen-year-old Squid returns to her childhood home on a remote lighthouse island off British Columbia with her young daughter in tow, she and her parents try to come to terms with each other and the painful events of the past, especially the death of her older brother.
Reading Level:
600 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.4 9.0 64636.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.4 15 Quiz: 32946 Guided reading level: NR.


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Paperback
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Three years have passed since Squid McCrae last saw her parents and the remote island where she grew up. She returns now at seventeen, a young woman with a daughter in tow. The visit, she knows, will be rough. Lizzie Island--paradise to some, a stifling prison to others--brings an onslaught of memories. It is the place of Squid's idyllic childhood, where she and her brother, Alastair, blossomed into precocious adolescents. But Lizzie Island is also the place where Alastair died. Now the past collides with the present as Squid's homecoming unleashes bittersweet recollections, revelations, and accusations. But nothing is what it appears to be. No one possesses the complete truth, and no one is without blame.

Author Notes

Iain Lawrence is a journalist, travel writer, and author. His novels include Ghost Boy, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, The Skeleton Tree, and the High Seas Trilogy.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 10^-12. Like the secluded British Columbian setting, Lawrence's latest novel is lush and deceptively quiet. After a three-year absence, 17-year-old Squid McRae returns with her toddler daughter to her childhood home on a small island, where her father, the lighthouse keeper, and her mother still live as the only residents. Squid's brilliant brother, Alastair, drowned four years earlier, and Squid's return prompts the family members to reflect on the past and try to uncover their complicated sorrows--the profound power struggles between children and parents and even an intimation of incest between Squid and Alastair. Teens who demand swift plots may tire of the introspective, meandering story and the thick detail in Lawrence's lyrical, sophisticated telling, but those who make it through won't easily forget this novel. Though Lawrence raises interesting questions about freedom, responsibility, and happiness, the strongest moments are subtle, piercing scenes that uncover the unspoken emotions layered between family members--the guilt, shame, joy, anger, and almost unbearable love. A beautiful, unsettling story. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lawrence (the High Seas Trilogy) returns to the ocean for this exquisite novel that conjures literally the nature and mood of an island haunted by tragedy. When 17-year-old Elizabeth McCrae better known as Squid returns to her childhood home on Lizzie Island, a remote spot off the coast of British Columbia where her father serves as lightkeeper, she has a three-year-old daughter and a host of memories in tow. Chief among them are images of her brother, Alastair, who drowned when his kayak overturned. The events surrounding his death gradually and inexorably come to light, sifted through his journal entries (which Squid uncovers), scraps of remembered conversations and a compelling third-person narrative that alternates between Squid and her parents. Lawrence charts the course of the human heart, with cascading emotions of remorse and fury, love and passion, hope and nostalgia. Sea creatures take on metaphoric symbolism (a raven is "the Undertaker"; a beached whale prompts a conversation and some closure on Alistair's death). The author blends tangible descriptions ("There was no wind and no swell, and the water lapped at the shore as soft as cat tongues") and an elegiac tone (Hannah hesitates to use a pair of old U-boat binoculars: "It would be wrong to watch for her daughter through lenses that have witnessed the drowning of men") as he unspools an unforgettable tale. Rather ambiguous references to Tatiana's paternity mark this for mature readers. With adult characters every bit as memorable as the teen characters, plus its stunning ability to create a sense of the island's rhythms and habitat, Lawrence's novel not only lives up to the high standards of his previous works, but may well attract a wide adult readership. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-The lightkeeper's daughter is 17-year-old Squid McCrae (nee Elizabeth), who returns to her parents' home on Lizzie Island with her three-year-old, Tatiana, in tow. The young woman has been gone since the birth of her daughter and her homecoming raises all kinds of recriminations and memories. Squid and her older brother, Alistair, had idyllic childhoods. At age 12, Alistair moved into an empty second house on the island, followed a year later by Squid. As the siblings reached adolescence, Alistair began to perceive his differences from the rest of the family. He became obsessed with studying whales and believed that he could understand their language. Shortly after Squid's encounter with a visiting kayaker resulted in her pregnancy, Alistair set off on one of his nature excursions and did not return. Now, years later, the young woman and her parents are haunted by memories of the brilliant, troubled, and ultimately lost teen and Squid finds it almost unbearable to be on the island until she discovers his diaries and comes to a separate peace concerning her brother's death. The paradise in which the McCraes chose to live and raise their children has not saved any of them from grief and despair. This eerie and emotional story of the reconciliation and redemption of one small family on one small island seems almost too large, too compelling to be held in the pages of one book. It is not an easy or comfortable read but for sophisticated teens, this lyrical novel is an experience not to be forgotten.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One In the bow of the ship, high above the sea, stands a girl of seventeen. She looks like a figurehead carved from wood, her arms never moving, her hair chiseled in place and painted with gold. The ship carries her north at the speed of the wind, as though forever in a calm. The flags at the mast are twists of limp cloth, the smoke a gray column rising straight from the funnel. It's the sea, not the ship, that appears to be moving. It bursts on the bow and roars down the sides in tumbling foam. It carries rafts of torn kelp and logs that tilt through the waves. Seagulls and auklets skitter away, but the girl stares only ahead. At her side is her daughter, dressed all in red. Too small to see over the rail, she crouches instead on the deck, peering through the oval of the hawsehole. Her tiny hands are cupped on the metal, and she stares out between them, the way a cat watches from a windowsill. Wedged between her knees is a red plastic purse, its flap buttoned across a Barbie doll too long to fit inside. A frizzy head juts out from one end, a pair of pink feet from the other. The sea marches past, bashing at the bow, flinging droplets of spray that skitter like beetles on the water. It surges below the girl standing there, now reaching toward her, now falling away as the ship, meeting a wave, rises to the crest. And far ahead a tiny bright cap appears on the skyline. A single white eye blinks at her over all the miles of water. In a moment it's gone, lost in the waves as the ship drops from the crest, as the foam at the bow billows toward her. But the girl watches and waits, and again it appears, the little red cap, the blink of the light. It's what she's been watching for ever since the Darby turned at the Kinahan Islands an hour ago. And at last she moves. She raises a hand and covers her mouth. The island seems to rise from the sea like a surfacing whale. Trees and rocks appear, veiled in a silver of spindrift and mist. A tower forms below the red cap, at first so tiny and white that it makes the girl think of a gravestone. Then buildings emerge, red roofs and white walls. Squares of green lawn. Dark swaths of salal. Each little piece fills the girl with a particular feeling, with a picture in her mind, or a smell or a sound. She was born on that island; she's the lightkeeper's daughter. Her name is Elizabeth McCrae, but all her life she's been known as Squid. "Tatiana, look," she says. "That's Lizzie Island there." The child doesn't answer. She seldom speaks. Her little shoulders are bent, her head thrust forward. She's always been small for her age, but now she looks tiny and fragile, closer to two than to three. Squid settles beside her, on the gray steel of the deck. She holds on to Tatiana as though the child might slide through the hole and into the sea. Tatiana looks up, her eyes jiggling, all her teeth showing in her peculiar grin. "You doing okay?" asks Squid. Tatiana nods. "We're almost there. You'll meet your grandma and your grandpa. They've got a boat with a glass bottom, and a little tractor that can pull you in a wagon." Squid wants to tell her everything: about Glory, the little winged horse; about Gomorrah and the wailing wall; about Alastair's flute and the singing of whales. But Tatiana isn't listening. The child has already turned back to the hawsehole, watching the water rush past the boat. On the island, the wind feels brisk. It drives the waves against the shore and shreds them into spray. It gusts up the rocks and over the sodden lawn, where Murray McCrae, the lightkeeper, stands in his khaki shorts. "Darby's coming," he says, making it sound as though he doesn't care, as though he hasn't been watching for the ship since dawn first came to Lizzie Island. In his hands he holds the things the sea has cast ashore: strands of kelp and bits of bark and sticks like old men's fingers, warted with barnacle shells. Six feet behind him, Hannah looks up and turns toward the sun. It's well to the south so late in September, and it glares off the waves, off the rocks wet with spray. She squints, then puts her hands to her face and peers through the tunnel made by her fingers, the shape of a heart on the sea. The Darby is far in the distance. A plume of brown smoke, a speck of red for the hull. Her daughter's out there, an hour away. Murray carries his sticks to the edge of the grass and heaves them back where they came from, over the cliff and down to the sea. He claps his hands together, then hitches up his shorts. "Better get hopping," he says. "I've got things to do. Sand to carry." In a moment he's off on his little tractor, bulging above it like a circus bear. A rickety cart, rusted and squeaking, bounces behind him as he rattles down the boardwalk and into the forest. Hannah goes the other way, over the trestle and up through the tower, out at the top to the platform that circles it. For nearly a week, a lone humpback whale has been feeding on the shallows off the island, and she looks for it now as she might watch from a porch for a friend passing by. The wind buffets at the long, dark dress of the lightkeeper's wife, at the crimson scarf tied round her hair. Once this was her favorite place, above the houses and the patch of emerald lawn. Ringed in by the railing, she was never frightened by the height, though she stood so high above the sea that the birds flew below her and the surf flickered white on the distant reefs of Devil Rock. Autumn, once, was her favorite time, a summer's end when the whales and the birds stopped to rest on their southward migrations. But now the island is a prison, and the sea a wall around it. Autumn is the start of winter and the coming of the Undertaker. Even the wind makes her frightened. She believes now that it has a voice. She has heard it often in the last three years--as a breath in the summer's tall grass, as a whisper through the forest of moss-bearded trees. It has shouted her name in the storms that come from the south, when the gulls are flung through the sky like scraps of paper. She hasn't told Murray any of this, but the voice on the wind is their son's. Yesterday he was there. When the storm was at its peak and the house rattled and shook, when the Canadian flag tore itself into streamers of red and white, she looked out and saw him in the flash of the light. He was gone in the darkness that followed: there and then gone. Poor Alastair--four years drowned--blown up from the sea in the storm. Hannah shudders, remembering that, her vision of him. She moves back from the rail and leans on the glass. Though eighty feet above the sea, it's stained with salt, remnants of last night's storm. Hannah rubs at the white splotches with her hand, and then with the scarf, tearing it off to let her hair blow in tangles. Every five seconds, the light flashes in the cupola. It's a pathetic thing now, that light, a plastic dome on a little stick of a pole. The old lantern is long gone, the one that floated in its mercury bath, going round and around with a brilliance brighter than sunlight. Excerpted from The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Iain Lawrence All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.