THE LIGHT PIRATE by Lily Brooks-Dalton

When it comes to climate change, I often wonder, “What will it take for people to finally do something about climate change?” Stats aren’t working, International policy summits aren’t working. Non-fiction hasn’t seemed to break through. Even photos of cute polar bears clinging to melting ice blocks haven’t done the trick. Could fiction do it? Can an intimate look at someone’s life that has been dramatically, inalterably impacted by climate change take root in people’s minds and force them to confront our scary future? If yes, then The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton could be the book to do it.

Why I picked it up: This was my December BOTM pick, and a strong recommendation from Catherine at Gilmore Guide To Books pushed it up the list.

The Light Pirate opens in Florida in the near future, on the eve of a strong hurricane named Wanda. A girl is born during the storm, earning her birthname and welcoming her into a world of tragedy and dramatic change. As Wanda ages, passing through the usual milestones of childhood into adulthood, she sees the deterioration of a Florida wracked by floods, storms and anarchy, and suffers personal losses as a result. As traditional structures fall and fail – municipal governments and services, commerce, infrastructure – society devolves into a feral state focused solely on survival. Wanda must learn to live in an increasingly dangerous place, relying on the skills she learns from a survivalist prepper who has seen these days coming for years. How the two women manage to make it through the coming years makes for breathless, suspenseful and astonishing reading.

I really loved this book. It’s not a light read, in any way; there is no levity or “it’ll all be OK” turnaround. This is where we are headed if we all don’t take drastic measures, now. Brooks-Dalton has conjured a richly detailed world that luckily still lives only in her vibrant imagination, yet she makes it seem wholly plausible and terrifyingly accessible. I was in Florida over the weekend, and as I drove I-95 up the coast, I kept thinking, “This will all be underwater someday.” It was all too real to me, thanks to The Light Pirate.

Getting a bucketful of cold climate change water tossed in your face does not make for an escapist, relaxing read, and if that’s what you need from your reading right now, then table this one for when you’re ready for it. But I heartily and urgently recommend this beautifully written, important book to anyone who cares about the future of the planet.

I listened to The Light Pirate on audio. The narrator, Rosemary Benson, was perfect for this book: eloquent, assertive, even, and not overly dramatic. Excellent casting. Thank you to LibroFM for the Advance Listening Copy.

The Light Pirate was the 11th book of 2023.