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The Rise of Light

August 17, 2021

Author: Olivia Hawker

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Editions: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook

Pre-Orders Link: 

ISBN (Hardcover): 978-1542022453

Short Summary: In rural Idaho during the summer of 1975, one family struggles with faith, tradition, and the need to break away.

Cover Copy:


A powerful novel about the expectations of family―and the risks and liberation of defying them―by the Washington Post bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

1975. In the town of Rexburg, Idaho, aspiring artist Aran Rigby, his younger sister, Tamsin, and their two brothers are locked in orbit around their emotionally abusive father. Gad is the kind of man who soothes the failures of his own life by controlling the lives of others. But Aran and Tamsin are united in rebellion against their father. They understand each other. They have dreams beyond their small town.

Arriving in Rexburg is Linda Duff, an outsider from Seattle hoping to plant new roots far from the bitter ones of her childhood. She’s quickly taken with Aran, in no small part because of his talent. But when they fall in love, Linda is drawn into a family more damaged than the one she left behind. She also becomes privy to a secret Aran and Tamsin share that could dismantle everything everyone holds dear.

Upsetting the precarious balance in the Rigby home, Linda becomes an unwitting catalyst for the upheaval of Gad’s oppression. Now it’s time for them all to break free of the past, overcome the unforgivable, and find a new way forward―whatever the price.

About the Author

Olivia Hawker is the Washington Post bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.


Her books have reached more than half a million readers and have been translated into four languages. Blackbird was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, the WILLA Literary Award for Historical Fiction, and was one of Amazon's Top 100 Bestselling Books of 2020.

Olivia's work is characterized by rich, immersive detail and complex characters. Her interest in genealogy often informs her work--like her two previous novels, The Rise of Light is based on a true story from the author's family history.

She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.


Short author bio: Olivia Hawker is the bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Like her previous novels, The Rise of Light is based on a true story from the author's family history.

Sample Interview Questions

Q: The Rise of Light is set among Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) culture. Do you have any connection to the LDS religion?  A: I was raised in a Mormon family, and in fact I was born and spent a significant portion of my childhood in Rexburg, Idaho, where the book is set. I'm from an old LDS family. My Mormon ancestors go all the way back to the founding of the church. So although I am no longer a practicing Latter-Day Saint, I have a lot of familiarity with the culture and a very deep connection to it.

Q: What inspired you to set your novel in Rexburg?  A: I grew up hearing stories about the flood that devastated my hometown in 1976. I've always found that flood strangely compelling--maybe because Rexburg is kind of dry and out in the middle of nowhere, and it's the last place you'd ever think a major flood could occur. It's such a shocking, unexpected disaster to befall that particular town. So I knew I wanted to tell a story in which the Teton Dam flood could play a part, but once I began playing around with characters and trying out scenarios, the book really grew beyond the flood and became deeply involved with the dysfunction of one family. The Rigbys are a family in which the siblings are all adults now--or close to it--and the parents don't quite know how to cope with the shifting dynamics of power and influence among their children and between themselves. The flood is still there, but it's a book about more than just this real disaster that befell a real town. It's about other kinds of disasters, too... crises of faith and the very particular kind of danger that can result when secrets become too big to keep.

Q: Your previous two books--The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow--are based on true stories from your family history. Is that the case with The Rise of Light, as well?  A: Yes, this novel is loosely based on some members of my immediate family and their interpersonal experiences during the 1970s and 1980s. I've taken plenty of creative license--the privilege of the novelist--but the core of the story is very personal to me. It might be the most painfully honest book I've written to date.

Q: One of the main characters in The Rise of Light, Aran Rigby, is an aspiring painter. There is a lot of visual art described in this book, and also some peeking behind the curtain at the business side of a professional painter's life. How did you research this aspect of the novel?  A: Art and the business of art are in my blood. My father and grandfather were both professional painters--contemporary impressionists, though my dad specialized in regionalist landscapes and western genre art, and my grandpa focused mainly on still lifes. My family was part of a wonderful community of regional artists in eastern Idaho and the Jackson Hole area, so I grew up not only in my dad's studio, but also in the studios of the renowned colorist Sergei Bongart and the Berberian brothers, among other well-known painters. So I didn't need to do a lot of specific research in order to depict the mid- to late-20th century American art scene. I recalled a lot of those details from my childhood.

Q: Are you a painter yourself?  A: Not a very good one! I'm trying to develop some skills and I really enjoy painting, but my creative talents lie more in the direction of writing. Or maybe I'm not as bad as I think. It's hard to have perspective on your own neophyte oil-painting skills when you used to sit on Sergei Bongart's lap and watch him whip out a whole bouquet of peonies on canvas right before your eyes, as if it were nothing. My sister is a very talented painter, though. She mostly works in watercolor.

Q: Aside from inspiring The Rise of Light, how did growing up in a family of artists influence your writing career?  A: Even though I am not a professional artist myself, I feel so fortunate that I was born into a family of working artists. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, and no one ever told me it was impractical or that I should have a backup plan in case writing didn't work out. I was absolutely surrounded by people who had successful careers in a creative field, so there was never a point where I thought--or where my family thought--that it was unlikely or risky for me to pursue a career as an author. I also grew up with very realistic expectations for a creative career. I never expected it to happen overnight. I knew it would require many years of strategic, focused work without any compensation, and that the early years of my career would most likely be difficult and would require me to be persistent. But because I knew to expect all that going in, I wasn't too dismayed during the hard times. I just kept working at my art and moving forward, and one small step at a time, I got there... which is how it typically happens with creative professions. It's one small step at a time, and before you realize it, you've achieved that goal and you're living the dream. I really love my work, and I love being able to share stories with readers, so I'm very grateful to fate or the Universe or whatever is out there for allowing me to believe from a young age that a career as an author wasn't out of reach.

Olivia Hawker is available for interviews, essays, and other media appearances.
Please contact the author directly at