Alcoholism, Blog Tour, Book Review, Depression, Drug Abuse, Giveaway, Rachel's Random Resources, Rape, Suspense, YA Fiction

Winter Light by Martha Engber

Winter Light


Fifteen-year-old Mary Donahue of suburban Chicago is a kid on the cusp of failure during the brutal blizzard winter of 1978-79, the end of a hard luck, hard rock era sunk in the cynical aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Though a smart, beautiful kid, she’s a motherless girl raised by an uneducated, alcoholic father within an extended family of alcoholics and addicts. Aware that she’s sinking, she’s desperate to save herself and so reaches out to an unlikely source, Kathleen, a nice, normal kid from English class.

But when the real storm hits, the full force of a harsh adult world almost buries Mary. Only then does she learn that the only difference between life and death is knowing when to grasp an extended hand.


Welcome to my stop for the Winter Light Blog Tour hosted by Rachel’s Random Resources. And don’t forget to register for the three fabulous giveaways below.

This book has an intense element of surprise, so be prepared to be stunned, appalled, and angry. The book will keep you rooting for Mary to the very shocking ending.

Mary Donahue is a burnout, the lowest on the hierarchy at school. She drinks, she does drugs, she parties, and she ditches school. But then the reader sees her change and she slowly becomes friends with a prep want-to-be, Kathleen McCarthy. She meets Kathleen’s family and bonds with Kathleen’s mother, Mrs. McCarthy. And just when she thinks her life is changing for the better, tragedy strikes which makes her rethink her past relationships. At this turning point, she picks herself up and faces life head-on with courage and conviction, but then tragedy strikes again and all her dreams vanish.

Mary and her brother Danny have a wonderfully supportive relationship. After all, they need each other since their father is an alcoholic and their other brothers are out of the picture. Kathleen is a bit naive, but her role in bringing friendship and her family into Mary’s life is extremely important. 

This novel is an emotional roller coaster for me.  First of all, I was the same age as Mary in 1979 and understand the concept of frigid winters, no cellphones, vinyl records, parties, and predators. I had friends that were spiraling down like Mary, and I had a mom like Mrs. McCarthy who took my friends under her wing whenever she could.  

Overall, this is an extremely important and remarkably gritty novel about the harsh reality of life through the eyes of a teenage burnout. It’s about the need to better yourself after hitting your lowest point.  It’s about friendship and family. It’s about fighting to survive. It’s one of my favorite reads of the year. Recommend highly!

Triggers include classism, substance abuse, rape, and depression. 

Thank you to Ms. Engber for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Winter Light (Open INT)

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Giveaway to Win a Book Club Chat from Martha Engber (Open INT)

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Giveaway to Win a free hour book development consultation with Martha Engber (Open INT)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


WinterLight Cover

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Martha EngberMartha Engber’s next novel, WINTER LIGHT, will be published Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. She’s also the author of THE WIND THIEF, a novel, and GROWING GREAT CHARACTERS FROM THE GROUND UP. A journalist by profession, she’s written hundreds of articles for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. She’s had a play produced in Hollywood and fiction and poetry published in the Aurorean, Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review, and other journals. She’s also a freelance editor, workshop facilitator, and speaker. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband, bike, and surfboard.

Follow Martha on her website, Facebook author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


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