Title: A Light in the Wilderness: The Story of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Southeast Florida Frontier
Author: James D. Snyder
A Light in the Wilderness: The Story of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Southeast Florida Frontier explores the lesser-known history of some of Florida’s sandy shores. We learn about life in the early days of Florida’s statehood and one lofty goal: installing a lighthouse at Jupiter Inlet.
In this non-fiction work, we learn about the history of lighthouses, the growth in their popularity, and the combined efforts from folks all over the country to perfect their parts, leading to the creation of a community because of them. We’re easily transported back in time with vivid, concrete descriptions of the sea and landscape. The voice is casual and approachable, and often charming, like an elder telling stories of the “old days.”
The book is split into three parts: Jupiter Inlet’s lighthouse, the Civil War, and the transformation of the Jupiter area from an outpost to a town. At the beginning of the book, there is an Author’s Notes section with some context about the book’s topic. While it provides an accurate framework for the book, it doesn’t capture the charm that the rest of the book has. Including a more comprehensive introduction that emphasizes the many feats the book delves into may hook readers in more and gauge their interest from the start.
Don’t be fooled by its historical subject, this does not read at all like a textbook. Though it is a research-based text, A Light in the Wilderness incorporates “characters” (historical figures and everyday people who contributed to the development of the land and the lighthouse) to create a natural narrative that depicts what happened in a way that will make readers feel connected to this real-life story. We follow multiple people along their journeys, and each character is introduced seamlessly.
One of the many ways this is done successfully is the incorporation of various mediums in the book. Journal entries, maps, drawings, and photos put a face to the name of the many people we learn about. We also see the transformation of the land, structures, and technology over time. Readers are given many ways to understand the historical context of the book’s topic while also keeping the reading experience interactive and engaging.
One of our favorite inserts is a letter from a lieutenant to his mother with a sketch of the fort he was writing from. Additions like these are invaluable because they add perspective and make the living experience tangible for the reader. Unfortunately, not all of the letters are legible, due to the handwriting or the age of the letter, so including alt-text or captions with the letter’s content would’ve been helpful for those pieces.
With unique perspectives, fascinating factoids, and enchanting imagery, A Light in the Wilderness dives into the rich history of the southeast Florida coast. Florida natives and early-America enthusiasts alike will indulge in this thorough, well-researched work. Chock-full of visuals and captivating tales, A Light in the Wilderness tells the tale of some of the most extraordinary achievements in Jupiter’s history.
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