An experienced technical writer and now author, Sylvia Allen is blogging the journey to publish her first novel, Like Light From Stars.
Obsessive love, a nightmare journey, musical genius, a chain of abandonment. Like Light from Stars follows seven generations of the same gifted but damaged family in San Francisco, starting with the California gold rush and falling farther into dysfunction and violence with each generation, until the late 20th century when three family members succeed in breaking free.
In 1849, Sarah Hammond is suddenly widowed with seven children. She takes the children across the country in a wagon train, and loses only one of them. From there the family steps down through the generations, through a traumatized Civil War soldier, a passionate singer who abandons her child, a train robber’s daughter, a psychopath, a heroin addict whose sister tries to save him. The events in each generation have consequences in the next.
The women who break out of the cycle have inherited the resilience and determination that Sarah Hammond brought with her on the emigrant trail. They learn that they can’t bring anyone back from hell, but they can blaze a trail through the darkness.
I so enjoyed Like Light From Stars. The descriptions of San Francisco put me in the city along with its smells and sights and music. In fact, the descriptions of music washing/dancing over a room and the people in it are beautiful. Allen is able to convey wisdom about human nature in such a way that I feel has deepened my own understanding. I now understand how children living through horrific events can “forget” and why. The pace of the book is always good, keeps the reader’s attention and never drags. Reading this family’s story, occasionally checking the “family tree” as I progressed from chapter to chapter, was enjoyable and rewarding. Like any great book, the ending does not disappoint. Allen ties her story together in the final chapters in a powerful and lovely way.
–Mary Ann Aschenbrenner