The Big Moose Prize Winner


The Book of Lost Light

Publication Date: November 2020


Joseph Kylander’s childhood in early 20th century San Francisco has been shaped by his widowed father’s obsessive photographic project and by his headstrong cousin Karelia’s fanciful storytelling and impulsive acts. The 1906 earthquake upends their eccentric routines, and they take refuge with a capricious patron and a group of artists looking to find meaning after the disaster. The Book of Lost Light explores family loyalty and betrayal, Finnish folklore, the nature of time and theater, and what it takes to recover from calamity and build a new life from the ashes.


I learned so much from this novel about the mad visions technology has always given us. In this quietly fabulous story, an early-twentieth-century photographer believes he’s solving the mystery of time, while his niece and his son have their own rocky fates. It’s so astute about ambition and has such a wise historical sense of the rich wreckage of San Francisco—I couldn’t stop reading.
—Joan Silber

Ron Nyren’s The Book of Lost Light is a beautifully written novel about the early days of photography; the capturing of time; acting; love, and much else. At its center is a wonderfully complex relationship between a father and his son, which is played out before, during, and after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The book is absolutely riveting, and its images will stay with you long after you finish reading it. I loved it.
—Charles Baxter

As deep and luminous as a sequence of platinum prints, Ron Nyren’s novel freezes time and sets it free, captures what was once, and what might be. A lovely and contemplative work of art.
—Andrea Barrett

In The Book of Lost Light, Ron Nyren tells the heartbreaking and fascinating story of a man who wants to stop time, and his son. These beautifully written pages follow father and son through several earthquakes—the large one that wrecks the city of San Francisco and the several smaller ones that wreck their tiny family. I love these wonderfully stubborn characters and I love how, despite everything, time carries them to a new place. A ravishing debut.
—Margot Livesey

This is a brilliant novel that shimmers with extraordinary beauty and power. It achieves one of the profoundest desires held by this band of memorable characters: to bring the soul to light in the surface of a work of art, to break through to something timeless, significant, transformative. A subtle, achingly gorgeous work of fiction that brings light and restoration to our human world.
—Harriet Scott Chessman

Ron Nyren reads for the Black Lawrence Press Virtual Reading Series

About the Author

© David Wakely

Ron Nyren

Ron Nyren’s fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Mississippi ReviewFourteen Hills, Able MuseDalhousie Review, 100 Word Story, and elsewhere. His stories have been shortlisted for the O. Henry Awards and the Pushcart Prize. He is the coauthor, with his spouse and writing partner Sarah Stone, of Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers, and a former editor of Furious Fictions: The Magazine of Short-Short Stories. Ron earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan. He is the recipient of a major Hopwood award, the Farrar Prize in Playwriting, the Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship, and the Andrea Beauchamp prize in short fiction. A former Stegner Fellow, he teaches fiction writing for Stanford University.

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