One Sentence Summary: Parallel stories look at people damaged directly or indirectly by lightning.
One Sentence Review: The book flips between competing storylines with ease and lets every character, however small, have a space and story in the novel.
Why I Read It: I wanted to experiment with using Net Galley, and remembered a good review of this book from Rebecca (The Book Lady’s Blog). I also love books with complicated narratives, so the dual structure was interesting.
Long Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors was the first book I downloaded and read on my nook. I got the book from Net Galley, an online service where you can request egalleys from publishers for review. I used Adobe Digital Editions, which is a good way to manage an online library and upload books to an eReader.
THFLSS is a story with three threads. The first is Becca, an 8-year-old girl who is struck by lightning. However, her family doesn’t believe her, so she grows up feeling different and alienated.
The second is Buckley, a bullied 13-year-old who lives at home with his obese but loving mother and abusive grandmother. His life changes when a controlling reverend comes into his life and marries his mother. Eventually, his life is impacted by lightning too.
The third thread includes excerpts from a book called The Handbook for Lighting Strike Survivors, which is exactly what it sounds like — a book that talks about how to survive a lightning strike. These sections are put in between the scenes of Becca and Buckley growing up. The book shifts in time and perspectives, but is always moving towards an inevitable moment when all the threads will come together.
While I loved the shifting narratives and the momentum they gave the book, they were sometimes a challenge on the nook. I started reading the book while exercising, which didn’t give me the chance to know much of what is going on. When the books shifted time and character, it was sometimes tricky to know what was happening. I think it would have been more clear if I’d read it in paperback (or I would have at least been able to back up easily to get my bearings).
But that’s really a comment on the format, not the book itself. There were many, many things I enjoyed about this book.
One thing that works really effectively is the lightning itself. The premise has the chance to be cheesy, but I think it works because the book really isn’t about the lightning. It’s about how moments can ripple out and cause damage, even when the damage can’t be seen. Lightning just provides the perfect example of this phenomenon – quick, often lethal, and not at all understood.
Another thing I loved about this book is the way that every character has a story. Although Becca and Buckley are the main characters, everyone from Becca’s childhood crush to Buckley’s step-dad’s son get attention and a back-story. That’s another quality I love in good books.
If enjoy books with multiple narratives and characters, plots that look at the ongoing implications of a single moment, and characters with deep backstories and complicated relationships, then I think you’d enjoy this book.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!