It’s the 1800s in New England, and Hannah’s husband fails to return to the lighthouse one night. There’s where I thought Hannah began her journey of self-discovery, and navigating her way as a strong woman in patriarchal culture.
But I was wrong. Hannah began that journey when she married John, when she decided to run out in storms and help sea-drenched sailors keep from drowning when their ships went down, and when she disavowed her feelings for Tom.
Hannah had little fear, and demonstrated chin-up bravery even when she was afraid of something. The Lightkeeper’s Wife is about Hannah plowing through life on her own terms, wending her way with a man beside her, without a man beside her, and most importantly with her own balance of masculinity and femininity.
Besides Hannah’s story, the novel explores pirate life. We see men and women fighting, stealing, killing… for freedom and gold. The women pretend to be men for their own safety on and off the ship. And some women remain masculine in dress and manner, because masculine affectation has become part of their soul.
The climax of the novel is when Hannah’s life and a pirate’s life intersect. The characters live as authentically as they can in a narrow-minded society. Families and friends and lovers all just live the best way they know how, without selling their soul completely.