Author: Miguel Reina (trans. Catherine E. Nelson)

Amazon Crossing, 2018

ISBN-13: 9781503903203

ISBN-10: 1503903206

Science fiction, fairytale, self-help, parable, outdoor adventure, anthropological study, or meteorological science? This work is all of the above, original and yet timeless. While, at first, I balked at the childlike narrative – in 2019 our minds are racing – I pushed on and came to acknowledge that it was, for me, timely. Like the two main characters, I am elderly and experiencing a prolonged grieving for a son. Thus, I will have to suggest that this charming and also challenging book may not suit every reader immediately, but it could be the right one to give to a friend, or to save for a special occasion, a time of reconsidering why we are here on Earth in the first place.

Miguel Reina, the Barcelona-born, Vancouver-based author, is an award-winning filmmaker and graphic artist. He is able to provide vivid and powerful landscapes, which he presents in short dramatic episodes with enticing titles (e.g., “A Slippery Shadow”). The story begins in a lightning flash. Hence, we are drawn by a storm, back and forth between the familiarity of a warm coastal village and the open sea, and eventually into the surrealistic, blinding, white Arctic. It is in this still, frozen place that the terrified Harold and Mary Rose Grapes come ashore in their house that was built to be a boat, and find themselves among a nomadic tribe of intelligent beings who have learned to live with what the natural forces deal them.

LIGHTS ON THE SEA reminds me somewhat of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The Grapes’ journey is ever-expanding, they are trying to puzzle things out, and conditions are always changing - however, they remain bound to Earth. Some reviewers consider this “magical realism.” I would argue that any magic is in the author’s inventiveness, his connecting the dots. His science is quite engaging. Also, I found his reality infused with spirituality but also common sense. Reina’s special thanks to authors J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings), Yann Martel (Life of Pi), Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles), and Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) provide some clues to where his mind has been. Kudos also to his translator, Catherine E. Nelson, a professor of Spanish at Nebraska Wesleyan University, who likely understands vast expanses with extreme weather patterns.