The Lighthouse by Jeremy Schliewe
Eibonvale Press, pb, £6.00
Review by Lottie Lightfoot
The blurb of this short story, chapbook if you will, promises an “understated mystery” and it does exactly that. The book focuses on two half-brothers, pulled apart by circumstance and brought back together after one of them is arrested for trying to break into the local lighthouse that sits on the edge of Lake Michigan.
Our unnamed narrator travels to his hometown to help bail his brother, Charles, out of jail. Once there, he finds Charles near-raving about the lighthouse, his obsession pulling him towards it like a lighthouse draws ships into a bay. Our narrator decides to stay in his hometown for a bit longer, to unravel both the mystery of his brother’s obsession, their childhood, and their relationship to each other. He tries as best as he can to understand the fervour in which Charlie clings to the past and to the mysterious, abandoned lighthouse.
The intrigue of this book is that it is focused around the unknowable and unfathomable, contrasting with it’s matter-of-fact approach to prose and dialogue. It’s a story about growing up and being pulled apart, and about all the nostalgia and pain that comes with it. The pair are easy to identify yourself with: the eldest is the one who grew up and moved away in search of something more, and the other, younger brother is the one who stayed behind. We’ve all been on opposite ends of hating and loving our hometowns and we’ve all had conflicting feelings about leaving things behind or getting stuck somewhere. This book holds a mirror up to us in an almost taunting way.
In the end, something will always pull you back home as this book sets out to show. It was a highly enjoyable, if slightly short, read. The book is tinged with a melancholic nostalgia that stays with you long after you put it down.