Thursday, May 09, 2019

Fiction Review: Soon the Light Will Be Perfect

One of the selections for Booktopia this year was a debut novel, Soon the Light Will Be Perfect, by Dave Patterson, a Maine writer who grew up in rural Vermont. I listened to this coming-of-age novel on audio and was thoroughly engrossed in the sad, funny, real-feeling story of a boy on the cusp of adolescence, trying to figure things out during one difficult summer.

The narrator is a twelve-year-old boy in a small town in rural Vermont whose older brother, at fourteen, is starting to pull away from him. Their father's job in a local factory that makes military tanks has allowed them to move out of the trailer park and into a small house. The novel opens with a hilarious story of a pair of new pet cats that quickly overrun the house with kittens, but the narrative soon turns more grim when the boys find out that their mother has lung cancer. It is the 1990's and the first Gulf War has just begun, so his father's job seems secure, though he's not sure how he feels about their family's good fortune being dependent on a war where people are being killed. Meanwhile, his mother's cancer treatment devastates her, and she becomes even more sick and sleeps a lot. The family is heavily involved in an evangelical Catholic church locally, and his mother continues to work for the food pantry through her illness. Both of his parents - and then his older brother - are also involved in protests against abortion clinics in neighboring towns, another thing that brings up conflicting and confusing feelings for him. On the Fourth of July, he meets Taylor, a teen girl from the local trailer park, and while his family's problems are bad that summer, he thinks that Taylor's are maybe even worse.

This is a remarkable novel covering a range of issues from chronic illness to extremist religion to war and politics to simply growing up. Those opening passages about the explosion of cats in their small house had me laughing out loud, while the next part of the story about his mother's illness sobered me up, in the way that real life provides alternating laughter and tears at times. The author was an entertaining, funny, and fascinating speaker at Booktopia, explaining that the novel is partly autobiographical and accurately represents some of the challenges his own family faced one summer in his childhood. The main narrator is unnamed, and when I asked him about this, Patterson explained that he wanted readers to relate to him as any kid in that rocky period of transition between childhood and adulthood, faced with confusing contradictions and new challenges. It's a moving, irreverent, thoughtful book about poverty, family, and growing up. I can't wait to see what this new author comes up with next.

256 pages, Hanover Square Press

(Note: this novel is not YA - it was written for adults - but I do think that older teens and young adults would like it and relate to it. Note that it has does contain adult language and situations).

Dave Patterson speaking at Booktopia

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audio book, which was excellent, with Timothy McKean reading.

You can purchase Soon the Light Will Be Perfect from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

One to consider is Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, which hosts Booktopia every May:

Or you can order Soon the Light Will Be Perfect from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Oh, this sounds good, but intense. How great that you got to hear the author speak at Booktopia; I am sure it makes the books mean even more.

    1. The humor kept it from being too dark, Helen - and yes, meeting the authors really enhances the books!

  2. I've noticed that sometimes librarians or book store clerks shelf books about kids or teens in those sections even when they are adult books. It sounds really good.

    1. Yes, I've noticed that, too! I think you'd like this one, Anne.