Author: Michele Young-Stone
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “When lightning strikes, lives are changed.
On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, eight-year-old Becca Burke was struck by lightning. No one believed her—not her philandering father or her drunk, love-sick mother—not even when her watch kept losing time and a spooky halo of light appeared overhead in photographs. Becca was struck again when she was sixteen. She survived, but over time she would learn that outsmarting lightning was the least of her concerns
In rural Arkansas, Buckley R. Pitank’s world seemed plagued by disaster. Ashamed but protective of his obese mother, fearful of his scathing grandmother, and always running from bullies (including his pseudo-evangelical stepfather), he needed a miracle to set him free. At thirteen years old, Buckley witnessed a lightning strike that would change everything
Now an art student in New York City, Becca Burke is a gifted but tortured painter who strives to recapture the intensity of her lightning-strike memories on canvas. On the night of her first gallery opening, a stranger appears and is captivated by her art. Who is this odd young man with whom she shares a mysterious connection?
When Buckley and Becca finally meet, neither is prepared for the charge of emotions—or for the perilous event that will bring them even closer to one another, and to the families they’ve been running from for as long as they can remember. “
Thoughts: How to describe a book that I liked but left me rather numb? After all, if I cannot formulate a single opinion on the novel, then just how much could I have truly enjoyed it? This is where I am after reading The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. I enjoyed reading it, but it was not a novel that had me eager with anticipation to keep reading. I found the one thing that kept me turning the pages was to uncover the point at which Becca’s and Buckley’s stories intertwined. Once they did, the story lost much of its drive and focus, leaving me wondering just what Ms. Young-Stone’s point was, to which I still have no good answer.
The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors follows the two distinct stories of Buckley and Becca, both affected by lightning strikes, and how their lives are shaped as a result of those strikes. Each faces hardship, some of it of their own doing, that they are able to overcome. There is an the air of tragedy and despair that pervades both of their lives yet they rise above it all through remaining numb or relatively impervious to it.
While Buckley and Becca maintain a remarkable lack of emotion to the tragedies in each of their lives, the reader is left feeling like she or he was pulled through an emotional wringer. The “facts” of lightning strikes interspersed between chapters promotes a sense of urgency when it comes to lightning, adding to the tension. In addition, the language used by Ms. Young-Stone is beautifully evocative. The combination is one that creates an emotional roller coaster for the reader, weaving one’s emotions into and out of despair, resignation, innocence and hope.
While the novel revolves are two characters who have been impacted by lightning strikes in some way, their lives are not different from other tragedies people face. Therein lies the message. No one is any better or worse off than anyone else given certain circumstances or events. In other words, no one is alone in suffering because everyone struggles to go through life. It is a surprisingly comforting message.
In spite of all this, I still finished the novel feeling numb. I wanted to love The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors and feel like I should love it more than I do. The best I can say is that it is an enjoyable novel, but unfortunately, I was hoping for something extraordinary. Given my hopes, this just fell flat. I hate when that happens.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book!