Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

Summary: BECCA

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.
Crackling with atmosphere and eccentric characters, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors explores the magic of nature and the power of redemption in a novel as beautiful and unpredictable as lightning itself. -- Shaye Areheart

I had heard a lot of buzz in the on-line community over THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS by Michele Young-Stone, so I thought I'd give it a try. The premise of the novel sounded very unique -- "two lost souls separated by time and place, from the moment lightning changes their lives until the day it ceases to define them." And after finishing this novel, I would have to say that the entire story was very different, but in such a good way. I really enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend it.

I'm not entirely sure how to write this review (and that's why I've been procrastinating so much!) because it's one of those special books that should be read without a lot background knowledge. THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS tells the story of Becca , a young girl who was struck by lightning when she was eight years old, and Buckley, a young boy whose life is drastically changed when a loved one gets struck by lightning. The stories follow each of the characters through their lives and show the after-effects of the lightning strikes. The novel is multi-layered, but at its core, it shows how these two individuals became defined by a moment in time when lighting came into their lives.

I really enjoyed this novel and one of the reasons was that I liked how the story was presented -- I thought the author told the story in a very unique way. The chapters alternate between Becca's story and Buckley's; and they are definitely two separate, yet parallel stories. It's not until well into the book that the reader even begins to see how the stories will merge and how the characters will meet (and eventually save each other.)

I was equally impressed with Ms. Young-Stone's writing style. She is a very gifted writer, that's for sure. Not only did she present this story in an interesting way, but I appreciated how she incorporated so much symbolism into this novel. This book really made me think and I found myself re-reading quite a few passages. Sometimes it was because the writing was beautiful and I just wanted to appreciate it again, but other times it was because I needed to take a breath and process what Ms. Young-Stone was saying. I love it when a book can cause me to take a step back and think.

I also loved the characters of Becca and Buckley. I don't mean that I always thought they were perfect because they most definitely troubled and complex -- they were just trying to get through their lives the best way they could. But what I mean is that I really liked how well-developed and real they were. Although they were both damaged, they eventually were able to move past their traumatic experience and learn that they were more than that one event. I found that Becca and Buckley both remained in my thoughts long after I finished reading this book, and I always think that's one of the signs of a great book!

THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS would make an excellent book club discussion. I can't get over how much there is to talk about from this novel. There is a reader's guide available just in case you want a little guidance, but I really think your group wouldn't have any problems coming up with topics on your own. Some of the themes that I'd like to further discuss include tragedy, loss, coping, victims (both direct and indirect), healing, fate, parent/child relationships, forgiveness, hope, faith, friendship, and salvation. And don't forget all of the symbolism that is present in this novel which is just begging to be explored.

THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS is a very special novel and definitely deserves to be read and discussed!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


Amy said...

I'm SO glad that you loved this book, I also did. And I agree, so much better to go in to it blind.

Beth F said...

I admit that I've been caught up in the buzz about this title. So glad it lived up to the hype. I'll likely give it a try one of these days.

Beth Hoffman said...

This one sounds fascinating and I'd not heard of it before now. Terrific review, Julie!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think this was the one that Rebecca was gushing about not long ago, and after reading your review as well, it is hard not to get all excited about it.

Beth Kephart said...

You wrote a fabulous review...

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Yay! So glad you loved it. This was one of my favorites from spring.

Anonymous said...

Great review! You've officially made me very curious. This is going on my TBR list.

Michele Young-Stone said...

Your editor (or someone) tells you/the author, "Don't read the good reviews. That way, you won't have to read the bad ones." But, really, who can do that? Thank you for the wonderful praise. I assure you that Becca and Buckley and every character in THE HANDBOOK... are labors of love. They're my family. Thank you!

bermudaonion said...

This book sounds fabulous, and what a great comment from the author!

Jenners said...

I had to come over and read your review. Well done! It is hard to capture just what makes the books so special and wonderful. It is so hard to believe this was her first book!