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The Effects of Light    by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore order for
Effects of Light
by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's first novel, The Effects of Light, is an evocative and moving story about two sisters, Myla and Pru Wolfe. They are raised solely by their father since their mother died when the girls were very young. Their father is a professor with a passion for art. This leads him to allow Ruth, a family friend, to take photographs of the two girls throughout their childhood. Many of them are nude pictures of the sisters, and the question becomes whether these constitute art, or is there a deeper, more sinister element to the photos?

Regardless of their true meaning, the photographs change lives forever, which is the basis of the novel. Now an adult, Myla (the older sister) receives an unexpected, odd letter that shatters her relatively idyllic existence as a college professor immersed in her work and her small, quiet life. A combination of curiosity about the letter and a coincidental, bizarre turn of events at the college serve as the impetus for Myla to return home to Portland, Oregon. In Portland, Myla meets with the person who sent her the letter and is given the first of a series of packages. These turn out to be 'mental time bombs', reminding Myla of a past she has tried to bury.

The Effects of Light is a beautifully written novel that manages to be both a page-turner and a literary accomplishment. The story of the two sisters is a profoundly moving one that will make readers think twice about the difference between perception and reality, about art versus pornography, and about society's expectations versus our individual passions. Beverly-Whittemore has a lot to offer to the literary world, and I highly recommend this novel to fans of literary and contemporary fiction.

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