Read By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente Online


From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief....

Title : By Light We Knew Our Names
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781936873623
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

By Light We Knew Our Names Reviews

  • Hannah
    2019-06-09 22:02

    I have been trying and failing to write this review for days now. I don't quite know how to review it still. I can say this though: I wanted to love this. But I didn't.The cover is beyond beautiful (even more so than it looks on the pictures) and Anne Valente's writing is stunning but I struggled with how bleak this book was, relentlessly so. Short stories are often sad and often bleak but this felt unnecessarily cruel.The stories focus loss and trauma. This is done extremely well but made it necessary for me to take long breaks between the stories. People lose somebody or something important to them and are suspended in this world of grief. I can intellectually understand how well structured the short stories were but reading them did not often give me pleasure. I also found the stories repetitive in their bleakness and their near hopelessness.There were a few stories that I enjoyed - and these were the ones that were more hopeful and less devastating. Here Anne Valente's talent for creating characters and stories really shone. The first story in this collection of a child finding out just how special they are worked exceptionally well and remained my favourite until the end.This review and other thoughts on books can be found on my blog: https://ihavethoughtsonbooks.wordpres...

  • Amy | shoutame
    2019-05-29 01:03

    I believe this is the first ever short story collection I have ever read. It was brilliant!This is a collection of thirteen stories that encompass so many themes I don't even know where to begin. We see girls punching pillows underneath the northern lights, a boy strumming a guitar for his sick mother, a woman who's marriage has ended in a lot of green tea and so many more amazing and beautifully constructed stories. Grief, sickness, love and life are wonderfully explored by Valente in this novel. I can't really do the book justice in my description, all I can say is that you should definitely go and pick it up!I fell in love with Anne Valente's writing style, nearer the end I was rationing myself to a story a day as I wanted it to last longer! I know after this I shall be hunting out some more short story collections to add to my reading list. I would highly recommend to all.

  • TheSkepticalReader
    2019-06-12 23:01

    4.5 stars - a very close 5 star read.This treasured collection of short stories gripped me from the very first story. I should warn you beforehand, this is not an easy book to swallow. Some of the stories are really hard-hitting and will tear you apart in a million pieces. But nevertheless, if you are feeling brave one day, I strongly encourage you to give this collection a try.Valente is a poet. Her writing is in every word perfection and the way she crafts these beautiful stories is simply astounding. Not only can she be incredibly creative in imagery and symbolism, but the way she writes her characters—particularly the younger ones—is highly impressive. As someone who struggles very badly with short story collections, I began reading this one story a day but once I hit the forth short story, I couldn’t stop reading and flew though it. I usually struggle with short stories because I don’t find myself as invested into each story but this collection is perfection from the start.Some stories have a strong sense of magic, while most remain realistic. What is amazing about some of the magical realism stories is that there is always room for speculation as to what’s what and whether it is “magical” or not. I love stories that offer you more than one interpretation and more then one way of looking at things so I have to really admire the fact that I took so much away from each of the stories.The only reason why this book remains short of a perfect, five-star read is due one story towards the end that wasn’t nearly as gripping for me as the rest of them were. While I did enjoy the ending of it, majority of the story remained a dull experience and was unfortunately not redeemable by the last three pages. Still, don’t let that deteriorate you from picking up this wonderful book. By Light We Knew Our Names is still a brilliant piece of art.I should warn you, I’m bound to keep changing my rating from 4 to 5 stars as I keep mulling over some of the stories overtime. But there isn’t a single person I can think of that I wouldn’t recommend this collection to.

  • Vanessa
    2019-06-18 00:10

    3.5 stars.By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente was, although a good and highly entertaining short story collection, nonetheless a victim of the hype machine for me. I wish that I had come across this collection having never heard of it before, simply being drawn in by the beautiful cover and the enticing synopsis, rather than by the rave reviews from various people on BookTube. I can't help but wonder if my experience of the book would have been heightened even just a little. But nevertheless, this is still a very good read, and one that although I didn't adore like so many people, I would in fact return to and read again.The eleven stories in this collection all have a sadness at their centre, with some being more hopeful than others. They cover a variety of topics, from sexual assault and adultery, to grief and illness. Very heavy subjects indeed, and ones that, based on my initial reading of the first story, I was not expecting at all. However, for the most part I did feel that the somewhat heavier stories were in fact the better stories in this collection. My opinion regarding my favourites in this collection may be an unpopular one, because I actually felt that the stories in the second half of this collection were a lot stronger, and I found my enjoyment increasing a great deal towards the end, which bumped my rating up a half star. My favourites in the collection would have to be Latchkey (the first story, and the only one I have read twice), By Light We Knew Our Names (brutal but beautiful), Minivan, Until Our Shadows Claim Us (possibly my favourite in the collection, and the one that drew me in the most), and Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart.I am glad that I read this collection finally, but I'm afraid I wasn't as enamoured by it as so many other people were. Like I said though, this is a collection that I would return to, as now I know what to expect from it, I feel I may be more open to just letting myself sit and experience the stories on a slightly deeper level. Anne Valente can definitely write, and although her writing was not quite as lyrical as I was expecting based on other people's reviews, there were now and again some very heart wrenching moments that held me fast and wouldn't let me go.

  • Teresa
    2019-06-04 20:52

    3.5 One of many impressive elements to these stories is the description of emotions felt in the physical body. The writing is always beautiful, though the stories start to feel a bit too familiar and the voices too similar as they accumulate. A few are told in first-person plural and, while that point-of-view fits each, I have to admit to being bored at the first and weary by the last. In general, though, the latter was a great story, keeping me reading in a state of tension.The magical elements are rendered well, though I felt defeated by some of the whimsical names of the titles themselves. (I admit also to a certain lack of imagination.) A couple of the stories are brutal and realistic in their depiction of violence against women—no magic or whimsy there— though the phenomena of nature is a consolation of sorts. Conflict between science and nature is a recurring theme.Even though I read only one story per day, I think I would’ve liked each even more if I’d come across it in isolation, in its original publication in the various literary magazines where each first appeared. That was not likely to happen, so I’m glad to have been introduced to this writer through this collection.

  • Ferdy
    2019-05-22 02:04

    Really enjoyed most of the stories, there were only a couple that were boring/hard to get through. Latchkey and A Very Compassionate Baby were the most interesting, the magical realism elements really drew me in. The ones that were most impactful were Minivan and By Light We Knew Our Names, they were brutal and depressing. I disliked Dear Amelia and A Taste of Tea, they were rather dull and nowhere near as engrossing as the other stories.

  • Elli (The Bibliophile)
    2019-05-30 01:07

    This was an amazing collection of short stories! There was so much variety, but also clear themes that ran throughout. Beautifully written, poignant plots and a joy to read overall! This collection proves that short stories can be just as heart wrenching as a full-length novel! Can't stop gushing! Plus the cover is beautiful.

  • Tara
    2019-05-23 23:05

    This book has its own feel, its own place in the world of fiction. Valente is an extremely gifted writer, with an ability to merge science, magical realism, and reality in a wondrous way, but she never lets go of what truly matters, the core of her writing, which is the need of all humans to be loved and to feel safe. She forces you to slow down your reading, to luxuriate in her sensuous sentences that flow like many tributaries into one large river of truth. Highly recommended for short story lovers, especially fans of Anthony Doerr and Kim Edwards.

  • Leesa
    2019-06-07 00:06

    Anne Valente has a heartbreakingly gentle way of writing. Even the stories that made me a bit scared/anxious of what was coming next...the words were careful, gentle, soft. From moment to moment, magical or everyday. Everything felt true. So much beauty here. This is one of my new favorite collections, indeed. Resplendent.

  • Lucía
    2019-06-13 04:09

    Latchkey is an incredible story.

  • Varsha Ravi
    2019-06-12 01:54

    4.5/5This short story collection which consists of 13 stories, simply just took my breath away. The stories in this collection are realistic but have a sort of weird/magical realism-esque undertone to it. Some stories are more realistic, some others distinctly surreal and some sort of straddle the border and could be arguably either. So it would be the perfect choice if you are not sure whether you enjoy magical realism, but you want to give it a try, nonetheless. The general theme within most of the stories in this collection deal with loss in some form or the other and its so incredibly beautifully captured. It just left me in awe of how touching, painful, real and tangible words on a page can be, and how it can invoke such powerful emotions from within. The stories in this collection explore sadness, humour, joy, science, mystery, magic and our relationships with the natural world with incredible deftness and I was completely consumed into every story. And. I have to talk about Anne Valente's writing. It's absolutely stunning and fluid without being overdone. This collection was just perfect in every single way, and it is one of the best books I have ever read. And one that I know I'll keep revisiting.

  • Nastya Khyzhniak
    2019-05-31 23:14

    We wake up, we have our morning coffees and small breakfasts, we rush to start the day. We find a safe heaven in the subway to read, even if only for 20 minutes and then keep the story in our minds until there is time to finish it. "By the light..." is wonderfully magical (sometimes literally). Every story through the sadness or scary moments gives hope, subtle light which will help to discover your name as well. One doesn't just read the story as a spectator but is a part of "we". I just loved it! The book touches so many diverse subjects and you really don't know what to expect from a next page and a next story, but definitely don't want to stop until you've read them all.

  • Aurora
    2019-06-12 22:17

    This broke my heart in the best way possible. Enchanting, lyrical and gritty. A perfect mix of magic realism and the almost unbearably real.

  • Melissa
    2019-06-15 03:06

    This book is pure magic!

  • Brooke
    2019-06-14 00:15

    Latchkey (4/5)Dear Amelia (4/5)To a Place Were We Take Flight (5/5)Terrible Angels (3/5)A Taste of Tea (2/5)Everything that was Ours (2/5)By Light We Knew Our Names (2/5)If Everything Fell Silent, Even Sirens (4/5)A Very Compassionate Baby (4/5)Minivan (2/5)Not for Ghosts or Daffodils (5/5)Until Our Shadows Claim Us (4/5)Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart (5/5)By Light We Knew Our Names is a collection of 13 short stories that explore the line between magic and grief. These stories are not for the faint of heart, they are sad and depict the world in a dark light. However, except for the chunk of stories residing in the middle I absolutely enjoyed this! Magical realism has always been something I love to read. I love how the fantastical can explain the ordinary in such a beautiful way and often times leads to great discussions on the authors intent. I was a little worried when I reached the halfway point because the stories were just falling flat and becoming more contemporary than magical realism. Thank goodness the last half picked up and was very good! My favorite story was probably, “Not for Ghosts or Daffodils”, with a close second being the last story in the collection, “Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart”. These two were written with gorgeous prose and very unique storytelling. They both would make Oscar worthy short films. I’m looking for more short story collections to get my hands on so if you have any recommendations leave them in the comments section!

  • Leah
    2019-06-08 01:04

    I don't know why or how I stumbled across this book, but thank goodness I did."From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief."What a stellar collection! The dominant theme of which is grief and dealing with loss: of loved ones, of innocence, of freedom.Highly recommended to readers who prefer short stories with a little dab of magic to mute their stark reality.4 stars-----------------------------"Latchkey" - 4/5; Seven-year-old Sasha doesn't want to open her birthday present(view spoiler)[, but then it's revealed she has a magical gift too just like her friends (hide spoiler)]. What does her gift say/reveal about her? LOVED!"Dear Amelia" - 3/5; Written as an open letter to Amelia Earhart. A clan of shapeshifters, black bears in Maine, on the verge of World War II. "Our mothers, as heartbroken as us. Their empty gaze, their listless silence. We knew then that they'd watched for you too, that somewhere beneath what we'd feared in them had burned a radiating hope for a different world. We knew there was no answer, beyond our mothers, and our mother's mothers and their mothers. That this was what had always been, what they knew to do for us with the world as it was, and the undeniable threads of our blood...But we knew at last that they didn't know...We knew at last what they would have wanted to tell us. We knew at last that they dreamed.""To a Place Where We Take Flight" - 4/5; A teenage son whose mom is in the hospital with terminal cancer hopes to heal her with his music. His dad is in denial. The boy's favorite bedtime story, "The Ship in the Sea of Sadness," told to him by his mom as he was growing up, inspired his hope. "Terrible Angels" - 4.5/5; Francie sees her dead grandparents. They help her through her grief by leaving reminders of her childhood. The last item she finds isn't from her grandparents. (view spoiler)[The floaties were from her house, so were they from her mom, who died just before the start of the story? I think so; I won't forget Francie curled up around them at story's end. (hide spoiler)]"A Taste of Tea" - 3/5; A husband leaves his wife for another woman. The wife retaliates by buying tea in bulk, a huge pile delivered by dump truck. She also throws his belongings in the garbage and vandalizes his car. All of this is observed by their teenage son who is only just venturing into the world of love. Symbolism: Bitterness of the dry tea leaves; once steeped in water taste altogether different? 3/5"Love isn't much more than a fencing match, Kevin." She reached over to her pile of tea, touched it again. "It's just a matter of who stabs who first.""Everything That Was Ours" - 3/5; A senior in high school is facing the draft. Set during the World's Fair in Queens, NY. He and his mother are alone after first the death of the father then the death of the older brother. "By Light We Knew Our Names" - 5/5; Set in Willow, north of Anchorage, where girls are openly abused by the local men. Fathers, boyfriends, classmates, strangers. While fictitious, a heartbreaking reality for young girls and women everywhere. "We loved and hated Willow then, how ignorance made us safe inside moonlight, unsafe beneath sun.""If Everything Fell Silent, Even Sirens" - 4/5; Another story about the unexpected loss of a parent. A pregnant wife punches her husband. She's not actually dealing with her father's death, the dismantling of his life's work (his lab of dolphins). Then she starts hearing a howling noise like the wind but not. Is it her father? She's not who she wants to be. "A Very Compassionate Baby" - 5/5; A baby cries at the sadness in all things from a broken toy to a dilapidated stop sign. His only consolation a flower in the backyard. The baby loves being outside and stays there for hours. Is there something living on the flower? The dad thinks he sees the two "beings," on reflex rips the flower up. Is the baby "touched"? "Minivan" - 4/5; In the aftermath of his girlfriend's rape a young boyfriend (they're both in their late 20s or early 30s) he tries to do his best to do, say, be the "right" way, but... "Not for Ghosts or Daffodils" - 4/5; A father and daughter are abandoned by wife/mother. The little girl catches a ghost in a jar. The ghost is called Harriet and she's a bright yellow daffodil. Ghosts of flowers."He felt the wish inside him then, just for a moment, for his own jar to keep. Not for ghosts, not daffodils, but for the sound alone--to hold his daughter's laughter in a Mason jar, to bottle and store, to set on his nightstand like fireflies, to hold light to the black." "Until Our Shadows Claim Us"- 3/5; Set in the 80s. Second graders fear they've unleashed something from a mirror. Urban legend used to explain the unfathomable to kids: one of their own taken from his bed at night. "Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart" - 5/5; A researcher grows attached to his specimens. "But within the anonymity of night, Dr. Carver had caught an octopus himself, had pulled Sedna from the wild-dark sea beyond the reaches of the labs and had locked her beneath the ground for Walter to oversee, for Walter to ignore the experimental regulations on octopuses, the laws mandating that no surgery be performed without anesthesia for their nearly infinite nerves.""Rosaline rubbed his back and headed inside, and Walter watched the trees swallow the last of the sun, a death stained in streaks across the marbled, darkening sky."

  • Michelle Abramowitz
    2019-06-19 01:19

    DNF 50%2.5 starsI don't care about any of the stories and have no reason to think that'll change in the next half.

  • Julia
    2019-06-08 20:17

    Wow— each and every one of those stories is going to linger. I have always struggled to understand the appeal of short stories, but I think I get it with this book.

  • Janice
    2019-06-17 04:07

    This book of stories starts out with some absolutely lovely magical realism sorts of stories. I'm kinda glad that those stories were at the beginning of the book, because there's some harder stuff a little further in. I found the contrast a little jarring, frankly. But as I look back over the stories in the book, I realize the darkness was pretty much there from the beginning. Everyone is vulnerable in some way. Some vulnerabilities are exploited more ruthlessly than others.Every story is a little jewel though, I think. Some are prettier than others, easier to look at, easier to read. Some are hard and uncomfortable and sad and rage-inducing.But they're good. You should read them.Stories:a birthday presentAmelia Earhart & women & bearsKids singing for sick mommysterious grandparents and bad relationshipsdivorce and teagrowing up w/Vietnam and the 1965 World's Fair-then BOOM-abused young women and their rageetc.

  • Christy Lau
    2019-05-18 20:17

    Original review here.When I found this collection of magical realism vignettes, I was certain that I would love it like I did Like Water for Chocolate and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. Instead, the thirteen short stories left me wanting – though for exactly what, I cannot articulate. Coming of age, parental relationships, death and feeling trapped were recurring themes, and Anne Valente explores them with an abundance of symbolism. But I was often left wondering what it is that she actually wants to evoke with the sometimes bizarre supernatural elements.We have girls turning into bears in Dear Amelia, and while I appreciated the ideas of indignant hope, of shame and loneliness, of fighting against the inevitable, the final message of burrowing into dens and ignoring it all failed to strike any emotional chord. On the other hand, To a Place Where We Take Flight and Terrible Angels had poignant passages, but were otherwise unremarkable. The plot developments were not particularly original, nor were the perspectives presented by the protagonists. In fact, much of the book was similarly unmemorable, beyond the persistent irritation half the characters seemed to ignite in me. Kate in If Everything Fell Silent, Even Sirens was especially maddening – I felt no empathy for her inability to be self-aware and consequent violence or her petty attempts at rebelliousness, regardless of whether her father’s death precipitated them. I am by no means suggesting that characters must be likeable for a book to be good. Perfect characters are just as bland as critically flawed ones are infuriating. But it is the delicate science of identifying relatable vices and insecurities that enables readers to become invested.I enjoyed Minivan and Latchkey the most, and while the former was a heartrendingly raw account of abuse and recovery, the writing in the latter felt laboured at times. Sasha’s predisposition to sighing and suggesting such absurd contents of her unopened gift as “maybe it’s an army … a tiny army of lop-eared rabbits” bordered on pretentiously profound. Of course, it is precisely the matter-of-fact inclusion of magical elements that puts a work on the ‘magical realism’ shelf. But it was evident that the character herself did not believe in the possibility of her own statements. In fact, the label ‘magical realism’ is misleading – most of the stories were incredibly realistic, but without any magic at all. This would not have mattered much if By Light We Knew Our Names was marketed properly. But as it were, I felt confused and slightly cheated.I decided to give this book a try only long after the hype had died down. I still do not find the lush lyricism or idiosyncratic voice. If I were looking for exquisite prose, I would personally turn to another Valente instead. But that is not to say that By Light We Knew Our Names was a completely uninteresting read. Many rated it a five-star book, after all. It was sometimes frustrating and other times throwaway, but the short stories were mostly solid works with clear potential. I just wish Anne Valente fleshed out her explorations of these universally emotive themes more completely.Rating: 3/5

  • Sarah
    2019-06-12 22:59

    This is spectacular, I really like short story collections - I know they are not for everyone but I love them.This is the perfect example as to why I don't like anthologies, you need the body of work from the author to make the collection complete.I think this would be a nice place to start if they are not your thing.

  • Lydia Ship
    2019-06-11 21:57

    Anne Valente brings wonder and reverence to stories of family and coming-of-age in her debut collection, By Light We Knew Our Names. Of these thirteen stories, roughly half employ a kind of magical realism or fabulism as illumination of their themes: in “Latchkey,” the opening story, children find that they are bonded together by the fantastical manifestations of strengths each possess, which are brought into relief as they cultivate a world together after school, restricted by realism but no less wondrous; in “Dear Amelia,” the young female protagonists must come to terms both with the helplessness they feel as their developing bodies shape-shift into bears, and with the helplessness they feel being born female into an America embarking on World War II; and in “A Very Compassionate Baby,” a father must appreciate the mystical sympathies his infant possesses while learning uncommon compassion himself as “he wonders . . . if the baby will remember this at all once he’s grown, with no flower to recall and only a world of sadness before him, its sorrows to keep like gemstones, to enfold in the pockets of his small, vast heart.” Just as similar empathetic moments bloom, likewise, all of the stories expand outward in transcendence, whether to redeem the characters, inspire them, or strengthen their familial relationships, often all of the above. The result resonates with hope and awe:Ben laughed, and the lines of worry on Maple’s face melted away and she began to laugh too, and soon they were both giggling so hard it hurt. The sound pierced a dull ache into the center of Ben’s chest. He felt the wish inside him then, just for a moment, for his own jar to keep. Not for ghosts, not daffodils, but for the sound alone—to hold his daughter’s laughter inside a Mason jar, to bottle and store, to set on his nightstand like fireflies, to hold light to the black.Such is the resilience and heart in these stories. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this wonderful collection today!

  • Sanaa Hyder
    2019-06-01 01:12

    When you buy a book because you like magical realism, you know you're most probably going to love it. This was a random recommendation from the sister, she said, "you should buy this, Sanaa," while I quickly pulled up the book on Goodreads. I said, "Why? This looks stupid, what's that on the cover? This looks boring. I need to stop buying books, I don't need this." I then proceeded to judge less and read more; eyeballed the synopsis and gasped. "Oh my god. IT'S THE AURORA! This cover is beautiful!!!"This short story collection will melt your brain or your heart or both. Leaving 2/maybe 3 stories out, this anthology is wonderful and tragic. Anne Valente hides secrets in her sentences. Look out for them, and I promise you, you will not be disappointed. I would really like to re-read some of the stories - 'If Everything Fell Silent, Even Sirens', 'Not for Ghosts or Daffodils', and 'Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart' - but knowing me, I doubt that'll ever happen. If it does, I wouldn't be wasting any time. You hear that, future-me? RE-READ THOSE STORIES.

  • Narmeen Hyder
    2019-06-11 20:13

    This is one of the most original and unique short story collection I've ever read. I absolutely loved every story. Absurd some may be; without an actual ending or a purpose to the story but that in itself speaks volumes about its whimsical nature.My favorite of the lot wasNot for Ghosts or Daffodils. The relationship depicted between the father and his daughter are what parental goals are for me. It brought tears to my eyes, so endearing and beautifully written. Anna Valente, How did you even come up with this stuff? Can we be friends, please? Also, I don't think you need me to tell you what a great writer you are.

  • Bri
    2019-05-27 02:57

    There were some really beautiful stories in this collection, and Anne Valente's writing is absolutely phenomenal throughout. There were 3 stories that didn't resonate as deeply with me as some of the others, but the strength of the other stories more than made up for the 3 I didn't love quite as much. I would highly highly recommend giving this collection a go!My absolute favourites were:- Latchkey- Dear Amelia- To a Place Where We Take Flight- By Light We Knew Our Names- Until Our Shadows Claim Us- Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart

  • Katie Farmer
    2019-05-26 21:13

    I think, overall, this collection is around 3.5 stars. I really loved 'Latchkey', 'Dear Amelia' and 'By Light we knew our names'. There were others in the collection that I enjoyed but found that some of them started to blend into one another and were kind of forgettable. Maybe that's because I read this in two sittings? I don't know. That being said, Anne Valente has a very warm writing style that's so easy to move through and I think she captured childhood and grief very well.

  • Jenny
    2019-05-19 01:14

    I loved tHis collection of short stories. Ms. Valente has an usual style of writing; there is no dialogue. But she tells a great story via descriptive narrative. Each of the stories is about kids or young adults and the totally fantastical wildly imaginative and creative themes that flow throughout the book.

  • Dallas
    2019-05-26 19:54

    All I can say is... WOW. This gorgeous story collection by Ann Valente blew me away, gave me all the feels, reminded me why fiction matters to our souls. Now I want to turn back to page 1 and read the whole thing again!

  • Brooke
    2019-06-18 23:02

    Heart wrenching and absolutely stunning. A damn near perfect collection.

  • Laura
    2019-06-06 02:59

    By Light We Knew Our Names is a collection of short stories, which I've been in the mood for lately. I was attracted to it because I loved the cover and I've been in the mood for a little magical realism lately, and I find that collections of short stories are the best if I want my thirst for magical realism sated. While I often find full-length magical realism novels hard to get through- which is why I've avoided books like One Hundred Years of Solitude or Like Water For Chocolate- short stories are an easy to read taste of magic, which is what drew me to this collection.And it's a good solid collection. I mean, it is definitely a debut collection, with the messages behind each story a bit more sledgehammer in approach than I would have liked them being. The meanings behind each story were fairly obvious, which is nice but it is a little atypical of the genre. To me, the biggest appeal of magical realism is how much the mystical aspects cloak the meaning of the story, forcing the reader to come to his own conclusions about what the author thinks vs what the reader thinks the story means. In this, the meanings were fairly obvious, and all of them had to do with the same two subjects- loss and growing up- played over and over again. But Valente is a really talented writer. I especially loved the stories where she wrote in first person plural- Dear Amelia, Until Our Shadows Claim Us, and a bit of Everything That Was Ours. Besides those stories, I also really liked Latchkey, Terrible Angels, Minivan, and If Everything Fell Silent, Even Sirens. But my absolute favorite story in the collection was Not For Ghosts or Daffodils. I just loved the language and the characters in that story. I also need to mention that the last story, Mollusk, Membrane, Human Heart has such a gut wrenching conclusion that it was almost hard for me to read. There were a few misses, though. I found the title story, By Light We Knew Our Names, to be the biggest one. It was a cool idea, but wasn't that great in execution, and it was hard for me to like any of the characters. A Very Compassionate Baby was another miss- it made me think of that Edward Gorey short story about the horrible baby, though. Other than that, there were a few stories that didn't really do much for me, like To A Place Where We Take Flight, which I wanted to like more than I did, as well as A Taste of Tea, which had the same problem. Continue reading this review on my blog here: