When selecting a historical fiction or nonfiction book, I often will choose one “related” to my family, whether it is biographical in nature, is set somewhere our ancestors have resided, or is about a historical event in which our forebearers participated. Because of the setting and some of the characters’ surnames, I was eager to read The Light Before Day, written by Suzanne Woods Fisher.
The Light Before Day takes place on the island of Nantucket, home to a few of our families’ predecessors. In October 1641, the island of Nantucket was deeded to Thomas Mayhew, my 11th great-grandfather. Eighteen years later, Gov. Thomas Mayhew sold interests in the island to nine men, reserving 1/10th interest for himself. These investors included Tristram Coffin, my 11th great-granduncle and direct ancestor of the main characters, and Christopher Hussey, my spouse’s 10th great-grandfather.
The book begins 200 years later, just prior to the Civil War. Young Henry Macy has returned home to Nantucket after a three-year whaling excursion. His grandmother, Lillian Coffin, has died, and her entire fortune has been left to Henry and his twin sister Hitty.
Unfortunately, this inheritance comes with conditions. First, all monies must stay on Nantucket. Second, Hitty and Henry must remain Society of Friends members in good standing. Finally, within eight years, Henry and Hitty must marry Friends in good standing whose own lineage can be traced back to the island’s original English settlers. If either Hitty or Henry fails to adhere to any of these stipulations, they would forfeit the estate, and another family member, a known scoundrel, would inherit.
As a family historian, I appreciated how the author interwove journal entries by Mary (Coffin) Starbuck—the twin’s ancestor and Tristram Coffin’s daughter—with Henry’s and Hitty’s lives, and how “Great Mary’s” insights and observations help Henry in his quest to improve his small corner of the world.
However, my favorite aspect of this novel is how both Hitty and Henry look for the light of God in everything and how their words and deeds reflect that light on others. What an admirable trait.
The third and final book in the Nantucket Legacy Series, The Light Before Day is engaging and uplifting tale. So much so, I definitely will be reading the first two books in this series…soon.