Woman of Light is Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s first novel, after her collection of her debut collection of short stories, Sabrina and Corina. FBC has a podcast episode on the novel’s themes and the quotations that stood out to them. This multigenerational novel was beautiful and magical.
There are novels with two timelines-one historical and one contemporary – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab and The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner are two recent examples. Similarly, Woman of Light has two timelines, one focusing on 1930s Denver featuring Luz “Little Light” Lopez; her brother, Diego; her cousin, Lizzette, and her gay aunt, Maria Josie. The other timeline features Luz’s grandmother, Simodecea in the late 1800s, who was a sharp shooter and who was also a part of a travelling circus. Diego is a snake charmer and does lowly jobs, while Luz has a gift for reading tea leaves and works as a laundress with Lizzette. Diego is run out of the town by the family whose daughter he fell in love with and who becomes pregnant. Luz then starts to work as a lawyer’s assistant. Through her and her grandmother’s timelines, we get to know about gentrification, power of media, community, poverty, misogyny, and family. The racism that Luz’s family faces as they are Indigenous and Chicano is a huge part of the novel. The flashback’s featuring Simodecea and her husband, Pidre are adventurous and I wanted more of that story. The descriptions of the food, homes, problems are realistically portrayed.
Simodecea and Pidre’s timeline was very interesting while also very emotional. Luz’s storyline featuring the working class with their everyday struggles, including racism and misogyny, also shows moments of joy, tenderness, love, and hope. The overall novel, like Sabrina and Corina, show glimpses of Luz and her grandmother’s life, while not having a clear resolution. Luz and Lizette’s relationship and Luz’s own relationships with men and other family members are nuanced and beautiful. However, the novel is a strong recommendation for fans of historical fiction, multigenerational novels, magical realism, and feminism.