Lake Superior’s stunning North Shore imagery comes to life in Jean Pendziwol’s new novel, The Light Keeper’s Daughters, which was released to critical acclaim in July 2017. Deemed “a haunting tale of nostalgia and lost chances that is full of last-minute surprises” by Kirkus Reviews, Daughters follows the tale of two women whose lives become intertwined while reading journals belonging to a former Porphyry Island lighthouse keeper.
Thunder Bay, ON author Pendizwol is enjoying success at home: the novel maintains a spot on The Globe and Mail‘s top 10 Bestsellers in Canadian Fiction as of August 5th, 2017. But her riveting story, characters, and patently Lake Superior setting are about to gain international exposure: CBC Thunder Bay reported that Daughters is set to be published in over 10 countries around the world, such as China, Italy, Spain, and Brazil.
For inspiration, Pendizwol drew on her vast experience with Lake Superior to complete the novel, her first work of adult fiction. She explained to CBC that her affinity for the novel’s setting came from time her family spent sailing:
“From a very young age, our family had a sailboat and … all of our weekends and summer vacations were spent out on Lake Superior,” she said.
“I have a lot of fond memories of being in anchorages along the north shore, the isolation … the stunning beauty of Lake Superior.”
She also interviewed people who worked previously at Porphyry Island lighthouse to gain intimate understanding of the lifestyle of someone who spent their lives in a remote, isolated location with such a demanding job.
Journals such as Quill & Quire and The Walleye Magazine provided excerpts to tempt readers. The story revolves around Morgan, a rebel teenager doing community service in a senior centre who meets Elizabeth, the near-blind daughter of a former Porphyry Island lighthouse keeper. Over the course of a summer, Elizabeth asks Morgan to read her father’s journals to unravel family mysteries of the past and present.
Located 40 km east of Thunder Bay on the eastern side of the Black Bay Peninsula, Porphyry Island lighthouse is increasingly becoming tied with culture in Thunder Bay. As an iconic landscape, local artists draw inspiration from the lighthouse and create artistic works celebrating it. The Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior group encourages the link between the lighthouse and local lore by offering an artist in residence program that runs through the summer.
CLLS has worked hard to restore the Porphyry to its former glory. Built in 1873, the lighthouse was the second to be constructed on Lake Superior, and was serviced for 106 years by a light keeper. It went automatic in 1989, but is now leased from Department of Fisheries & Oceans and maintained by CLLS staff who welcome any visitors who wish to explore free of charge.
To purchase a copy of The Light Keeper’s Daughters and see Porphyry Island through Jean Pendizwol’s detailed perspective, click here.
Photos of Porphyry Island Lighthouse by InfoSuperior’s Jim Bailey