Eliza, 16, is the spirited heroine of this novel set in turn-of-the-century New York. Eliza's family runs a lighthouse, located on a tiny island at the confluence of the East River and Long Island Sound. Eliza is proud of the family occupation, but she rankles at the isolation, yearning for wider horizons. After a family tragedy, Eliza moves to a nearby ship-building town, where both her social and vocational opportunities begin to broaden. But it's not all clear sailing--now she must navigate within the hampering societal expectations. In her efforts to balance family responsibilities, grief, first love, friendship, and a challenging teaching job, Eliza sometimes runs aground but, with gritty determination, steers a clear course for the future. Kirkpatrick's first book strongly conveys the time and place, transporting readers to a world where life is circumscribed by the borders of an island and the mores of the previous century, then stepping back for a more panoramic view as the heroine matures. The dialogue, stuffed full of historical details, occasionally feels forced, but Eliza's emotions and struggles are real, and strikingly similar to the struggles young girls face today. A compelling coming-of-age story.